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Blog: Blog2

ONE: From the opera stage to the care home

Updated: Nov 17, 2019

Our first of four 'SoundUp with Opera North' workshop days. This week we brought Giulio Cesare from the stage to two community care homes.

Our reach in a nutshell

Number of participants: 63

Number of singers: 7

Number of community volunteers: 6

Venues: 2

About the workshop series

Today we had the first of four opera workshops which aim to engage people living with dementia in the productions presented by Opera North in their 2019 Autumn season. These workshops are being designed and presented by SoundUp Arts in partnership with Opera North and the Royal Northern College of Music. We are sponsored by Belong Morris Feinmann and Limelight Community Centre and supported by Together Dementia Support.

These workshops form part of our Access All Arts work, this area of work aims to bring arts and cultural activities into communities. We work alongside arts organisations and venues to bring their programmes out to the community, making cultural engagement accessible, interactive and joyful for people who may not be able to access cultural venues or go to the theatre.

All our work at SoundUp Arts connects to our ethos that music and the arts can enrich everyone's quality of life. We aim to use arts and music to create opportunities for self expression, engagement, learning, agency, personhood and joy for all participants that we work with.

We designed these workshops to give participants with dementia, their families and carers a taste and experience of each opera in Opera North's Autumnal season (Giulio Cesare, La Boheme and The Greek Passion). We use a variety of activities, performances and sensory experiences to allow people of all abilities to connect and interact with the sessions.

Outline of the workshop

Today our workshop was based around Handel's opera Giulio Cesare.

We started with 'the opera in a minute'. Here the participants were introduced to the characters of the opera, and an overview of the plot. We used hats and signs to help to distinguish the different characters.

We then had a wonderful performance by Naomi of 'Svegliatevi Nel Core', Sesto's aria in Giulio Cesare. We discussed the 'Da Capo' composition form popular in Baroque opera, and explored the different musical sections in Naomi's aria. We then brought these different sections to life, by creating our own movements to the different sections of the music, and danced together using coloured scarfs and percussion instruments.

We relaxed as Alice sang a rare aria 'Fatto Bersaglio Eterno' by Albinoni. Following this we looked at the costumes and set design used by Opera North in their production of Giulio Cesare. We explored the contrasts in colour used to great effect in the production, and how costuming is used to visually represent the difference between Cleopatra and Tolomeo who wear vivid bright blue, in stark contrast to the rest of the characters who dress in dark military costume. We brought this to life using costumes from the RNCM's opera wardrobe. We had great fun dressing Ahlyssa up as Cleopatra in a gorgeous and elaborate blue silk costume. We slowly added each layer of the costume, and drew the parallel that Opera North expresses through their production, that the many layers of Cleopatra's costuming reflects her multi-faceted character and the different aspects of her personality. Ahlyssa described the aria she was about to sing, 'Piangero' and its place in the opera, how she feels at this moment and what she is expressing through the song. Here Cleopatra has been captured and sent to jail. I asked a participant to help me to tie her up with rope and chains, and then we watched the performance of the aria (this participant later identified in participant feedback that pretending to be the prison guard was her favourite part of the workshop).

Hannah then brought Cleopatra's predicament into more modern times. She sang 'Can't Help Loving That Man' which prompted lots of singing along and movement, we then came up with some movements for the chorus, and Hannah performed it again, this time with many participant's singing and dancing along.

We then relaxed again as Emily sang 'Music For A While' by Purcell, a lovely and calming way to follow the energetic session.

To finish the workshop we sang together some of Cleopatra's famous seduction aria 'V'adoro Pupille'. We changed the words to be more linked to the session.

How beautiful the music plays,

In Handel's Giulio Cesare.

How beautiful the music plays,

That we heard today.

About the performers

It was wonderful to have such talented singers from the Royal Northern College of Music performing and facilitating in the session today. The singers were Hannah Boxhall, Naomi Rogers, Ahlyssa Mundy, Alice Henery, Emily Noon and Nikki Martin. We also were joined by Ranald McCusker on the piano.

Each singer was trained by SoundUp Arts before the workshop, taken through a 2 hour Music Facilitation for People With Dementia training course.

Participant Feedback

It was such a joy to get lovely feedback from participants. Those who could filled out feedback forms and below are some of the responses we got today.

Some Videos From The Workshop

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