A truly magical production was brought to life by four Norfolk schools on 1st and 2nd February 2018.
A King’s Ransom, supported by Norfolk Music Hub, is a brand-new children’s opera, which reimagines the story of Robin Hood, exploring what happens when Robin is unable to save the day.
This 16-week project involved 160 children from Avenue Junior School, St Francis of Assisi Catholic Primary School, Sprowston Junior School and St George’s Primary School, who took on an artistic adventure to tell this extraordinary story. The young performers worked closely alongside the opera’s composer (Patrick Hawes), librettist (Andrew Hawes), orchestra (Britten Sinfonia), stage director (Genevieve Raghu), designer (Michael Pavelka), and choreographer (Natasha Khamjani) on a weekly basis, bringing opera into the classroom. The children helped make props, had musical workshops, and integrated the opera into all areas of learning.
The whole project provided an abundance of educational resources including a story book and accompanying topics and activities.
The project enabled the schools to work towards gaining their Arts Mark and Arts Awards. The same was the case for a further six schools, who were part of the audience schools scheme.
A King’s Ransom was delivered by Genevieve Raghu, a stage director who set up the company Into Opera, to inspire young people. The aim of the project was to create an adaptable opera for children aged 7-11 to perform, and for professional artists to have residencies within schools to support the learning process throughout. Working on the opera from the outset also gave children a sense of empowerment and ownership of the final production, not limited to those appearing on stage.
The theme of the opera tackles powerful emotions, integrated in a memorable way, which is intended to develop sensitivity and creativity in the children, as well as enriching the children’s cultural horizons and tackling any preconceptions about opera.
The world premiere took place at OPEN, Norwich, with two evening performances and an afternoon schools’ performance, where the other six schools taking part in the project had the chance to watch the opera and join in with songs they had also learned in the classroom.
Throughout the performance, the children’s talent and commitment shone though with no sign of any nerves or hesitation. Instead, there was a sense of pure enjoyment in a real detailed performance, down to the beautiful set deseign, costumes, props, and lighting. With polished choreography and timing, the cast used the whole stage and auditorium creatively, with every child having a part to play. Britten Sinfonia, conducted by Tom Floyd, brought the score to life. A triumph of all aspects, and a truly memorable experience for all involved.
This inspiring project provided a unique, engaging and accessible introduction to opera and all that it encompasses: classical music, drama, dance, the written word and stage design. In the long-term, Into Opera’s ambition is to develop A King’s Ransom into a national education project, following further discussions on legacy and impact.
- Find out more about Into Opera at into-opera.org.uk
- Read the schools blog to see how the schools reported on the project: schools-blog.into-opera.org.uk
- Read ‘Five Minutes With… Genevieve Raghu’ in EDP Norfolk magazine: pressreader.com/uk/edp-norfolk
- Read a review of the production in the Eastern Daily Press: edp24.co.uk/going-out/review and a preview feature: edp24.co.uk/going-out/norfolk-pupils-prepare-to-stage-a-brand-new-children-s-opera-1-5373847
- Catch up on the BBC Look East feature on the project: youtu.be/-uDVamTqZrA
- Watch the ‘A King’s Ransom’ evaluation video, with reflections from teachers about the impact of the project: youtu.be/jLxdVaAgHpE
- Read the article in Arts Professional Magazine about bringing the arts into schools: artsprofessional.co.uk/magazine/316/case-study/first-encounters-opera