More than 50 Montgomery junior school children were temporarily transformed into dragons, dwarves, unicorns and wizards this week as part of Mid Wales Opera’s residency in Montgomery Church in Wales School.
The company’s Artistic Directors Richard Studer and Jonathan Lyness were joined by professional singer Maria Jagusz working with 57 children aged 7-11 to create an opera from scratch, starting with the Welsh folk tale of the sleeping dragons hiding under Dinas Emrys.
The children wrote songs, created characters and storylines, their own scripts and music to perform for parents and school friends.
Ms Anna Griggs, the school’s headteacher, explained:
“It’s been really inspirational and the energy levels are superb. Seeing the collaborative work between the Artistic Directors and the pupils is wonderful.
“All of the children have been able to get involved and they have a huge sense of pride in their work and ownership of what they have created. The children were already buzzing about last year’s work so we knew they would get straight back into it, and from the school’s perspective the programme covers the whole curriculum, not just creativity but literacy as well writing scripts and stories.”
The residency week is funded by the Arts Council of Wales’ Creative Collaborations programme and took over the entire junior school curriculum for a full week, culminating in a performance on the Friday afternoon.
Lydia Bassett, Mid Wales Opera’s Executive Director, explained:
“This is our second week-long residency in Montgomery school and the children were incredibly excited to have the company back.
“The way we work is completely led by the pupils so the whole script and all the songs are put together during the week – we never know what to expect so this year we’ve got vanishing unicorns, eight dwarves, hobbits and some dragons.
“Children are great to work with because there’s no limit to their imagination – and because we have worked in Montgomery school before the children have no concept that opera is something strange or different, to them it is about having fun with music and words and creating a great performance which everyone can enjoy – which of course is exactly what opera is about”.
The children’s production brings together Welsh folk stories as well as cartoon characters and a mix of original music they have written for the show and musical theatre classics ranging from Into the Woods and The Sound of Music to Bernstein’s Candide.