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Dr Valerie Tee, Professor Peter Tomlinson, Ann Laenen, Katie Tearle, Maria Larsdotter PowerPoint Presentation
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Why Opera Education?. PROVISIONAL REPORT FROM WORKING GROUP 3. Dr Valerie Tee, Professor Peter Tomlinson, Ann Laenen, Katie Tearle, Maria Larsdotter. England. 1. 1. 1. 4. 1. 2. 3. 2. 1. 3. 5. 1. Netherlands. Wales. Scotland. Norway. Germany. Belgium. Sweden. Spain. Italy.

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Dr Valerie Tee, Professor Peter Tomlinson, Ann Laenen, Katie Tearle, Maria Larsdotter

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Why Opera Education?


Dr Valerie Tee, Professor Peter Tomlinson,

Ann Laenen, Katie Tearle, Maria Larsdotter


























Number of Opera Companies by Country


the opera companies
The Opera Companies :

The opera companies within RESEO included a full range of sizes of opera houses, touring companies, festival and youth companies.

Differences :

  • the number of productions;
  • the number of new operas;
  • the total number of performances during a typical year:
  • the number of employees
  • number of auditorium
  • the size of the various auditoriums
the education departments
The Education Departments
  • Similarities (80% +) :
  • Received public funding
  • Managed their own budget
  • Managed personnel
  • Worked with free lance artists as well as their own opera house artists
  • Worked with children and teachers
  • Worked collaboratively with Universities
  • Created productions
  • Commissioned work from artists – principally from composers and librettists
  • Created workshops – principally with school children of all ages
  • Created materials – principally for teachers
  • Presented pre- performance talks
  • Created study days
  • Organised guided tours around the opera houses
  • It was decided that only a pilot study was possible in the available time.
  • The interviews would be conducted in the language of the interviewees in order to gain the richest answers possible.
  • The sample of opera companies to be interviewed would be determined by:

1. the language expertise of the WG3 core members

2. the time available during March to carry out the interviews

3. a range of European countries

  • This sampling method was not truly systematic but gave us a sample of 21 interviewees located in Belgium, Sweden, Norway, Italy, Germany and France.
the interview sample
The Interview Sample :

‘Why opera education?'

Company Number of interviewees

  • As.Li.Co 2
  • Teatro Regio 1
  • Vlaamse Opera 2
  • Théâtre du Châtelet 3
  • Göteborgsoperan 2
  • Den Norske Opera 2
  • Welsh National Opera 2
  • Glyndebourne 1
  • Bayerische Staatsoper 1 (joint interview)
  • Theater am Gartenplatz 1
  • Theater + Schule 1
  • La Monnaie 3


provisional report
Provisional Report
  • This 'Why Opera Education?' study is not complete therefore the specific interview agenda structure will not be identified as further interviews may be carried out in the future
  • This is not an analytical study but an impressionistic, highly provisional, response.
  • A broad impression will be given of the aspects that appear across the interview responses
  • Some of the similarity and variation in the interviewees' responses across the sample will be reported.
  • Quotations and summary statements will be used to illustrate this impressionistic presentation.

1. To convey the passion and emotion of opera

2. To maintain opera heritage as well as develop the art form

3. To develop opera company artists

4. To link 'education' to other parts of an opera company

5. The school curriculum - a task for an opera company?

  • To meet a civic responsibility - funding.
  • To promote the image of opera
  • To widen the audience
  • To educate the audience
  • To introduce new ways of working
  • To explore different performance venues
  • The broader cultural dimension
conveying passion and emotion
Conveying Passion and Emotion

Responses :

  • opera education is a means to pass on the magic of opera
  • to pass on our passion for the art form, to be provocative, involving and having emotional content
  • to deepen and extend the inspiration, excitement and knowledge of the opera going audience
  • to draw the existing audience deeper and deeper into the fascinations of opera
  • to give the young audience a beautiful emotional experience so they might want to experience it again
  • to give the taste and emotion of opera to young people
  • to convince young people that opera is fun
  • to convince people that opera is an absolutely unmissable part of our emotion, psychology and our state of mind.
  • to keep the ‘festive feel to opera’
  • to tell the story of opera in the country that lives on the beats of opera
opera heritage v development
Opera Heritage v Development

Heritage Responses :

  • to prevent the disappearance of the cultural heritage of opera
  • to bring as many people of all ages and social categories into contact with our artistic heritage
  • to link society and heritage
  • it is important to get pieces that work rather than unique works
  • to bring opera into the life of young people as it was in the past
  • the productions that the audience see as important are not those that we see as important

Development Responses

  • guiding the existing audience to less well known works
  • we should be more modern and contemporary
  • to re-vitalise opera so that it doesn’t become a museum piece
  • bring opera closer to the world of young people
  • presenting mixed programmes such as West Side Story to attract a different audience
  • Artists need to acknowledge the importance of education work
  • They are appropriate and motivated for the education work.
  • They are chosen carefully
  • They are trained to work in education
  • We want artists with teaching experience not teachers with artistic experience
  • Free-lance artists should work alongside colleagues within the house
  • If you don't involve the company members then the education department has nothing to do with the company
  • We need to have a small group of well trained professionals to communicate opera to the wider world dynamically

However, there is also the view that:

  • it is not the job of the education department to train people
  • it is up to the artists themselves whether they get involved in education work

The impact of this work on the artists is also considered:

'Artists who never get the chance to be soloists can work in small scale ensembles

and be soloists - it really challenges artists and then they accept more challenges for

the main stage.'

education within the company
Education within the company
  • Positive statements:
      • ‘Our aim is to unite education within the core philosophy, mission and activity of the opera company’
      • good collaborations within the house
      • itraises the profile of the House
      • positive influence on the House
      • influences the image of opera
      • development of personnel in the company
  • Negative statements:
      • Staff don't know what we're doing
      • Setting up the education department was left to the end
      • no funding for an education department
school curriculum our task
School Curriculum - our task?

'We can co-exist with the formal education system, we can complement it, work with it, collaborate with it, support it, but not replace it.’

Yes - because:

  • teachers lack musical training
  • we fill thegaps in music education
  • music and theatre education is weak
  • schools do not have the means or resources
  • the deterioration of cultural education
  • teachers couldn't possibly do on their own

No - because:

  • formal education and opera should keep to their own side of the line: the educational world should do its job and the artistic world hers
  • we converge with the needs of the education system but this does not mean taking over music lessons
widening the audience
Widening the Audience

‘I'm less interested in the existing audience. They come no matter what. The others outside interest me the most. The others outside interest me the most. To catch their attention, to give them the chance to discover Opera, that is the challenge, that is what gives me energy.’

  • To give young people the opportunity to discover and enjoy opera
  • To enable young people to experience live opera rather than recorded performances
  • To provide reduced price tickets for young people
  • To reduce prejudice to young people attending - tolerance to their behaviour.
  • To reduce the financial and psychological thresholds
  • To make Opera more accessible to groups that normally wouldn’t enter the house.
  • To bring down the barriers for them so that they feel welcome.
  • To establish careful and detailed relationships within communities and understand how best these communities can be served by an Opera Company.
  • To offer reduction cards for 18 - 24 year-old students, who attended projects when at school. (6700 buy tickets with this card each year.)
image of opera
Image of Opera

‘Opera is enormous people in Viking helmets singing Shakespeare in Latin. It is our job to dispel this image!’

  • To take away prejudices that exist around Opera through ignorance.
  • To show young people that opera is not reserved for an elite.
  • To lower barriers through the way repertoire is presented
  • To bring opera closer to the youngster’s world through the popular repertoire.
  • Opera can’t be left behind after cinema theatre and internet.
  • Opera costs a lot of money
  • This art form has a very traditional image to the outside world.
  • The audience expects huge scenery, classical gestures, great names but that is not what we want to offer.
  • The image of opera stays in the middle of the 20th century in a couple of years we won’t have an audience anymore.
  • Opera still has this halo over it, it is for the rich and elite.
  • It is a highly specialised, intellectual and sophisticated art form.
civic responsibility
Civic Responsibility
  • We have a civic responsibility. Two thirds of our funding comes from the state and this should not pay just for those who like to go to opera
  • Government funding is very high so the opera company has a responsibility to society
  • We must communicate a developed image of the opera company to politicians and decision makers whilst keeping some independence from the ministries
  • Making people feel happy about public funding of opera
  • Education work should be a statutory commission for a cultural institution
  • To establish careful and detailed relationships within communities and understand how best these communities can be served by an Opera Company.
educating the audience
Educating the Audience

‘To create an audience that thinks more, that demands more, has an appetite for discovery and arrives ready to be surprised.’

  • To enhance and develop the enjoyment, interest and understanding of opera
  • To attract attention to the art form again
  • To help the audience to understand the conventions of opera
  • To help teachers who are culturally illiterate
  • To lead the whole audience into new works
  • To show the ‘workings’ or workings of the opera company to a potential audience e.g. through guided tours
  • To give pre/post performance talks, study opportunities, publications, Opera Bites and Insight Days.
  • To prepare the ushers to enable them to answer questions on the opera
  • To provide introductory projects for our sponsors.
  • To develop this audience to move in a new direction – to train them.
  • To guide the audience to attend lesser known works.
new ways of working
New Ways of Working

‘Opera education is not just about developing audiences but we’ve got to develop the art form because it is a living art form and we can’t just have everyone doing ‘La Boheme’ every year. It needs to be fed with new works and new ideas.’

  • ·                     To promote and develop the evolution of this living art form.
  • ·                     To develop the creativity of the ensemble (orchestra, chorus etc.)
  • ·                     To make this opera company look out rather than just looking in.
  • ·                     To work on a future perspectives for the arts not just opera.
  • ·                     To programme works of high quality for young people.
  • ·                     To work with modern themes with young students.
  • ·                     Modern technologies can really work to excite and inspire educational processes e.g. CD, DVD, Internet and Digital Technologies.
  • ·                     An opportunity to demonstrate through use of modern technologies that Opera is a modern art form.
  • ·                     We commission 2/3 works per year for young people. 

‘ What is new for one opera company may have been established in another for many years.’

‘To me an Opera House should above all be a place for creations.’


Main Stage:

  • ·         To take away the fear of entering intimidating 19th century opera house buildings so that everyone feels welcome.
  • ·         To develop strong links between the art form, its audience and its venue.
  • ·         To encourage people who have participated in non-main scale projects to come to the opera house
  • ·         To integrate education completely into the work of the company, in a way that it makes it indistinguishable from a performance on the main stage.

Other venues

·         To get opera into a dialogue with the world that surrounds it, by opening doors and windows and by looking for ways to get out of the Opera House into the community.

·         To be able to do all kinds of experiments in the non-main scale part of the company.

  • ·         To work on stages that are not too big so that the human dimension does not disappear and there is room for experimentation
  • ·         To work in ‘un-operatic’ settings to reach the community (prisons, elderly homes, schools, railway stations)
  • ·         To perform small creative projects in the foyer.
  • ·         To bring the regular audience to non-main scale performances.
the broader cultural dimension
The Broader Cultural Dimension

‘Culture simply has a role to play against the bitterness and sourness aspects that constantly increase within society.’

  • ·         To give young people a cultural experience.
  • ·         Opera should be part of a broader cultural picture.
  • ·         To give creative opportunities to the community.
  • ·         To make people aware of what is going on in cultural venues.
  • ·         To become more human and less disconnected from culture.
  • ·         To communicate between artists, art forms and people.
  • ·         To have a wider cultural vocation.
  • ·         Ideally opera would be like citizenship, a cultural development programme
  • ·         To use our external expertise to provide cultural training.
  • ·         There should be a partnership between culture and education.
  • ·         Because opera is so broad, multi-faceted and multi- disciplinary, we can be broader and deeper than any other arts organisation.
  • ·         We have to understand what our communities need through collaboration and discussion.
  • ·         Experiences of culture and live performances offer value to society.