South Leeds children take to the stage with Opera North

Almost 1,000 schoolchildren from 26 primary schools across the north of England, including several from South Leeds, have been treading the boards over the last couple of weeks, as ‘Wonderland Restored’ made a welcome return.

Composed by Will Todd, one of the UK’s leading composers, Wonderland Restored was inspired by Lewis Carroll’s enduring classic Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Based on the opera of the same name which Todd wrote for Opera Holland Park in 2013 the work was created especially for Opera North’s schools programme to suit younger singers’ voices.

The show opened at the Howard Assembly Room in Leeds on Monday 24 June, with pupils from eleven primary schools across Leeds performing throughout the week.Pupils from Windmill Primary, Low Road Primary, New Bewerley Community and Clapgate Primary schools took part in the performances.

When asked to describe their experience, children from Kirkstall Valley Primary School said:

“I felt like I was a professional opera singer”

“It felt fascinating to sing with the opera singers and the orchestra” and

“It felt like a dream that would never come true.”

Performances from the In Harmony Opera North Choir and the Opera North Youth Chorus closed the show’s run in Leeds; Wonderland Restored then travelled to Northumberland and toured across Yorkshire and Lincolnshire.

The show’s 7 to 11-year-old performers were joined by members of the Chorus of Opera North, together with an ensemble of professional musicians including players from the Orchestra of Opera North. Soprano Julia Mariko Smith took the part of Alice, with Aimee Fisk, Cordelia Fish, Graham Russell and James Davies from the Chorus bringing some of Carroll’s best-loved characters to life as Alice’s crazy adventures unfold on stage. Choral delivery artists from Opera North’s Learning and Engagement Team have visited each school to hold workshops with both teachers and pupils in preparation for the performances.

Laura Maniura, Producer and Schools Engagement Manager, Opera North, said:

“Opera North is delighted to be bringing back our semi-staged version of Will Todd’s Wonderland Restored this summer, with a new cohort of young performers from across the north of England.

“We believe giving children the opportunity to sing and make music from a young age is invaluable. For many of our performers this will be their first experience of appearing on a professional stage alongside professional singers and musicians. We’re looking forward to returning to some familiar venues and excited to be visiting some new ones as well. We’ve enjoyed collaborating with schools to bring this ambitious project to life and we can’t wait to see the result of all their hard work.”

Opera North’s Education work is supported by The Liz & Terry Bramall Foundation and Opera North Future Fund. In Harmony funders include The Charles and Elsie Sykes Trust and The Kenneth Hargreaves Charitable Trust.


This post is based on a press release issued by Opera North

Photos: Tom Arber


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