Ten new mini-operas are being created by Mahogany Opera Group’s Snappy Opera teams and regional partners The first five operas will be premiered in March and April 2017 Special performances of Snappy Operas at New Music Biennial 2017 and Hull UK City of Culture celebrations Mahogany Opera Group is creating ten new ten-minute Snappy Operas with some of the UK’s most exciting composers and writers, as part of a ground-breaking project enabling thousands of primary school children to learn and perform opera.
Snappy Operas is being specially created with and for children in Key Stage 2 (ages 7-11). Placing young people at the creative heart of the project, it gives them the opportunity to work closely with composers and librettists to develop each piece, and ultimately stage an opera with the support of artists. Each opera will be written for children’s voices with a flexible accompaniment to allow them to be learned in a single day and performed as widely as possible. The project will not only help develop musical and performance abilities, but will also allow children to explore their own creative skills. Snappy Operas embodies Mahogany’s mission to stretch the boundaries of what opera can be and who it is for.
The operas are being written and performed in two cycles. The first culminates in mass performances of five Snappy Operas in late March and early April 2017 in Cornwall, West Cumbria, Norfolk, Suffolk and North Tyneside. Artists who have created the first five Snappy Operas include composers Emily Hall, Errollyn Wallen, Jamie Man, Ed Hughes and Luke Carver Goss, and writers Ian McMillan, Toby Litt, Stephen Plaice and Peter Cant.
During this initial phase of the project, running 2016-18, Mahogany teams up with ten regional partners, including music education hubs and arts venues, to bring each of the Snappy Operas to life with 1,500 children across the UK. In the first year, this includes: The Apex, Cornwall Music Education Hub, Norfolk Music Hub, North Tyneside Music Education Hub, Rosehill Theatre and Suffolk County Music Service.
At the helm of this ambitious project are Mahogany Artistic Director Frederic Wake-Walker and music director Stephen Deazley who will lead a team of directors, musicians and animateurs working closely with each region to deliver the ten Snappy Operas. A parallel programme of training sessions will allow teachers and local practitioners to develop and embed skills and confidence, enabling them to mount Snappy Operas in future with little or no assistance, and further cascade that experience and knowledge.
The project is now in the delivery stage of its first phase: the operas have been written and workshopped, they are now being learnt, rehearsed and produced in each school. In addition to learning the music and libretti, the children taking part in the project receive a design pack to create their own costume for the final performance.
At the culmination of the creation process in 2018, the ten Snappy Operas and accompanying resources will be made available as a permanent resource for UK schools, youth choirs, theatre groups, music education hubs and arts venues, establishing a lasting legacy to be enjoyed by countless young people for years to come.
Stephen Deazey, Snappy Opera’s Music Director, said: “It’s difficult to describe the magic that can happen on stage when you’re creating and performing opera, but when you are on the inside, it’s very easy to feel it. The unique vision of Snappy Operas is in commissioning and sending these perfectly formed, artistically rich and achievable little works out into the world, letting young people become the makers and performers of opera on their own terms. This first deliberately eclectic collection offers a real mix of mini musical tales that are gruesome, comic and gripping, created specifically for young people to take their first steps into professional music and theatre making.”
Julie Dorr, School Improvement Advisor at North Tyneside Music Education Hub, one of MOG’s key partners, said: “North Tyneside Music Education Hub are delighted to have the opportunity to work on this exciting, innovative project with Mahogany Opera. The children are embracing the operas with great enthusiasm and tackling some complex scores with confidence and proficiency. Snappy opera has brought a new dimension to the hub singing strategy and brought the world of opera to a whole new audience.”
Snappy Operas adds to Mahogany’s growing body of work for young people and families, which has included touring productions of The Rattler, The Firework-Maker’s Daughter (as The Opera Group) and large-scale participatory project Brundibár. With Snappy Operas, the company aims to forge and strengthen relationships with schools, regional music hubs and services around the UK, bringing opera to as many young people as possible.
One of the first Snappy Operas, The Itch-Witch, created by composer Emily Hall and writer Toby Litt has won a place in the New Music Biennial 2017 and is part of Hull UK City of Culture celebrations (on 1 July 2017) and will be performed at London’s Southbank Centre on 8 July 2017.
Snappy Operas is generously supported by the Michael Tippett Musical Foundation and PRS for Music Foundation (Talent Development Partnership).