Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Challenging perceptions: Hip-hop to Opera

Atiya, Bakary, David, George, Junior, Lakaydia, Mayowa, and Pablo from Archbishop Tenison's School, Oval
Atiya, Bakary, David, George, Junior, Lakaydia, Mayowa, and Pablo from Archbishop Tenison's School, Oval
(Photo Opera Holland Park)
Michael Volpe, general director of Opera Holland Park (OHP), continues his imaginative campaign to de-mystify opera. In 2016 he introduced a group of seasoned football supporters to opera, and this year he has done the same with a group of teenagers from an inner London school. The resulting film Hip-hop to Opera tracks Atiya, Bakary, David, George, Junior, Lakaydia, Mayowa, and Pablo (from Archbishop Tenison's School, Oval) as they experience opera for the first time, and examines their reactions. The results are charming and heartwarming, the eight teenagers are articulate and thoughtful, and what is fascinating is the way that they realise that presenting them with opera is challenging them and taking them out of their comfort zone.

Of course, not every group of teenagers gets introduced to opera via a private recital from Jette Parker Young Artist Simon Shibambu or gets to meet the Director of Opera, Oliver Mears as part of a tour of Covent Garden. But seeing them experience Shibambu's singing close to, the first time any had heard an opera singer, was proof of the power of the medium, if you only give it a chance. And the group's reaction to their experience of Puccini's Tosca (in the recent outing of the Jonathan Kent production) was remarkable in the way that their varied reactions reflected how young people see the piece's drama (Tosca herself did not come out of it well).

But the film also challenges our perceptions of young people, and our assumptions about what they think and how they will react.

The eight young people will be going back to the opera this Summer during Opera Holland Park's 2018 season, which includes a schools matinee of La traviata .Ahead of the matinee, OHP is also offering workshops for students, CPD workshops for teachers and resource packs, full information from OHP's website.

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