Last night the Copper Box Arena in London’s Olympic Park was filled with the sights and sounds of Seville as United Learning pupils gave a once-in-a-lifetime performance of Bizet’s Carmen.
Over 1,000 pupils and staff from more than 35 schools nationwide came together to perform in the UK’s largest ever staging of Carmen. The performance was the culmination of a year-long project inspired by the Royal Opera House’s Create and Sing programme in partnership with United Learning, English Pocket Opera Company and The Voices Foundation.
From Accrington in the North West to Bournemouth on the South coast, pupils from schools across the country came together for this unique event. The project, which sought to introduce pupils to the world of opera, is part of United Learning’s commitment to deliver Education with Character, providing a breadth of opportunities and experiences ensuring pupils become confident, well-rounded and ambitious young adults.
The performance, staged and directed by the English Pocket Opera Company delighted the audience, including guests from the world of opera, music and education. Supported by four professional singers and a 14-piece orchestra, United Learning pupils worked for six months to bring this dynamic new show to the stage.
The Royal Opera House’s free Create and Sing programme, includes intensive teacher training and a suite of curriculum-linked digital resources and lesson plans, encouraging pupils to embrace musical culture and enjoy opera through participation and performance.
Davey-Blue Robson, a pupil at Abbey Hey Primary Academy in Manchester, said: “Being part of Carmen is a dream come true. The singing is amazing and performing in front of all these people is mind blowing.”
Conaugh Clarke, a teacher at The Hurlingham Academy in west London, said: “Carmen is a great opportunity for students to be able to perform with their peers from schools across United Learning and see that they are part of a bigger network. It’s so important for students to have a genuine performance space so getting the chance to showcase their talents at the Copper Box Arena is incredible - something very special for them to remember.”
Libby Gaynor, a student at North Oxfordshire Academy, said: “It was a privilege to perform at the Olympic Park and really interesting to try all the different styles of opera. I always thought it would be a cool thing to try but had never had the opportunity to before. Now it’s given me a lot of confidence and I’d love to do more.”
Catherine Barker, Head of Music and Performing Arts at United Learning, said: “All of the pupils gave a superb performance in which their new-found love of opera really shone through. The sound of our massed chorus of pupils singing together was mesmerising and was a true celebration of music. The partnership between the Royal Opera House, The Voices Foundation and the English Pocket Opera Company has provided support, expertise and resources for teachers and pupils up and down the country. We are thrilled that we have been able to give our pupils the very best musical learning opportunities and planting the seeds for a lifelong love of opera and musical performance. These projects teach pupils vital new skills, broaden their horizons and give them memorable experiences are part of United Learning’s commitment to deliver an Education with Character. As well as introducing our pupils to a new genre of music, this project has given them the opportunity to perform in a fantastic venue, collaborate with their peers from across the country and be part of a special celebration of talent and creativity. I am delighted that we have been able to provide this wonderful opportunity for our pupils and we look forward to seeing them build on this experience as they develop into confident, articulate and ambitious young adults.”
Alex Beard, Chief Executive of the Royal Opera House, said: “It was wonderful to see more than 1,000 pupils coming together to perform one of history’s best-loved operas and I know that it was an experience that will stay with all of those involved for many years to come. By working with teachers up and down the country, the Create and Sing Carmen programme has reached almost 16,000 young people, enabling them to engage with dramatic singing in a way which wouldn’t be possible through the school curriculum. It is wonderful to see that a love of opera and the arts is being sparked in so many of these young people and we look forward to continuing this work in the coming years.”
Rebecca Le Brocq- CEO, The Voices Foundation: “We are absolutely thrilled to be a part of this truly unique and once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for children and teachers. Our Choral Directors have stated what a privilege it has been to provide bespoke choral training to school teachers from United Learning tailored to their needs, all the while supporting the vocal development of their pupils in the long term. We have seen tremendous progress made in all of our training sessions and have been overwhelmed with positive feedback from many of the staff members involved in the project. Carmen! A United Learning Opera has had a transformative impact on everyone involved and we are thankful to United Learning, The Royal Opera House, and English Pocket Opera Company for working with us to bring this project to life”
Mark Tinkler, Founder and Artistic Director at English Pocket Opera Company, said: "I am delighted that in this, our 25th Anniversary season, English Pocket Opera Company can share our SingFest project with the dynamic United Learning and their excellent schools. We have been presenting opera for and with children since 1994, in a multitude of political and economic climates, and understand what a difference a project such as this can make in the life of a child. Our large-scale performances have engaged with tens of thousands of children over the years and have seen many go into the arts themselves. We are thrilled to be collaborating with the Royal Opera House and The Voices Foundation to bring the best training and resources for these children."
Create and Sing Carmen is generously supported by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, Mohn Westlake Foundation, Gonzalo and Maria Garcia, Crevan O’Grady & Jane McClenahan, Teale Foundation and two anonymous supporters.