Trio could teach world to sing

21st February 2003 at 00:00
Operatunities have come knocking for two teachers, an education welfare officer and two London schoolboys

TEACHING and opera singing. What could the two professions possibly have in common? More than you might think, according to two dulcet-toned teachers and an education welfare officer.

Wendy Goodson, Simon Hunt and Donna-Marie Greene each hoped to become the first amateur singer to perform on stage at the London Coliseum with the English National Opera. So last January they put down their marking pens and picked up their musical scores to take part in Operatunity, the fame academy for serious singers being screened on Channel 4 this month.

Tuesday's programme showed the three failing to make the final cut, but they said they were happy to return to their day jobs.

Simon, a 35-year-old physics teacher at Manchester grammar school, said:

"Doing Operatunity has changed me. As a teacher you often pay lip service to the idea that it's taking part that counts, but the experience has made me really understand what that's all about."

Wendy, 46, a singing teacher at St Peter's school, York, who went for Operatunity because she wanted a second shot at her life's ambition, said:

"My kids were all very excited about seeing me on the telly. They've always regarded me as a little eccentric. You have to be a bit off the wall to inspire them. I think me being on the TV has made them feel special too."

More than 2,500 aspiring sopranos and budding baritones auditioned for the programme, although just 20 managed to get on to the shortlist.

The three say that years of practice in standing in front of a critical audience, using vocal power to hold their listeners' wandering attention, helped them enormously.

Simon said: "Teaching is a performance like singing - there's quite a lot of theatricality involved."

He said he practised for the programme by singing into a camera borrowed from the media department - propped up on some books in the physics lab.

For Wendy, teaching and singing are similar: "You've got to be as prepared for a lesson as any audition."

Wendy said she was disappointed not to make it into the final six. "I'd wanted to go into singing professionally when I left school, but my father was typically working class and told me to get a proper job. I was a bank clerk for years."

Donna-Marie fell in love with singing at the age of 11 when she joined her school choir and went on to do a media and performing arts degree. But later she opted for a life as an education welfare officer in Salford.

The 26-year-old said: "Sometimes it's a regret, but the work I do now is great. It's my job to try and bring out the best in children.

"My drama teacher at school used to say 'the more you do, the more you will do', and now I hear myself saying that to kids."

Operatunity is on Channel 4 on Tuesdays at 9pm. Rigoletto at the London Coliseum will be screened on Sunday March 2.

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