Primary opera sounds promising

17th June 2011 at 01:00
Singing workshops and some gingerbread help to hook little ones into Hansel and Gretel. Raymond Ross reports

Bringing an opera company to an inner-city primary is bound to have challenges as well as rewards. "I don't like singing, drama or dancing," said one P7 boy at the start of Opera Week at Oakgrove Primary in Glasgow, led by postgraduate students from the Alexander Gibson opera school at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. But before the week was out, the same boy was at the front of the line for every workshop and session.

"The students grabbed the children's imaginations straight away - they had them totally engaged," says P7 class teacher Sandra Lyon.

The students explored Humperdinck's opera Hansel and Gretel with P5-7 pupils, using storyboard slides and film animation to show how opera presents stories through voice, visual staging and music.

"It was during an early session where the students were demonstrating the different ranges of voice, like soprano and tenor, that I realised just how captivated the pupils were," says Mrs Lyon.

The company's cross-curricular approach even involved the children baking gingerbread (in keeping with the gingerbread house setting of the story). It was scoffed by younger pupils and parents who gathered at the Friday school assembly, where the students performed excerpts from the opera which they had tailored specifically for their young audience.

"The children really enjoyed the singing workshops they took part in and as three of the opera singers were male, the whole experience provided positive role models for the boys," says Mrs Lyon.

And for the girls too - particularly one P2 girl who went home and performed her very own opera for her mum.

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