It gives us a marvellous opportunity to introduce pupils to a new musical experience", says Freddie Stockdale. "And the excitement of an opera being performed in school acts as an impetus which inspires children to seek wider cultural experiences."
Stockdale is general manager of Pavilion Opera which, with sponsorship from GlaxoWellcome, is mounting a series of performances of an abridged version of Verdi's Rigoletto in Ealing schools this term. The first performance took place at Havelock primary in Southall and was attended by pupils from several primary schools.
"It was great", said 11-year-old Amrita Bains. "The music really captures your attention. Deep sounds and high sounds, they all get mixed together". "The acting was really good", said Safeer Chaudhri. "And, because we'd learned the story beforehand, we could follow what was going on even though we don't understand Italian".
Pavilion Opera mounts small scale productions throughout the country. And its educational work, which is targeted at primary schools in inner-city areas, depends upon local sponsorship. The project in Ealing has two more years to run and it is likely that sponsorship will be found to enable projects in Middlesborough and Lambeth to continue for a further three.
Stockdale is realistic. He knows that teachers can be sceptical about opera in schools. "'Oh God,' they say, 'the kids will never cope.' But once we get teachers on our side it's plain sailing. And they soon realise that it's actually enormous fun for the children".
The project work which the trust insists upon before a schools performance is vital in conveying information about the opera. And in terms of "wider cultural experiences", the children's project involvement produced some effective displays of artwork at Havelock Primary. Clearly, Pavilion Opera has much to offer.
Pavilion Opera 01526 378231.