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Take Five: Young people swap Carmen's sunny Seville setting for Essex

83 young musicians from the Thames Gateway perform their own take on Bizet's opera alongside professionals.



By Freya Wynn-Jones (Chorus Director)

11 September 2013 at 4.24pm | Comment on this article

A flirtatious anti-heroine, a naive young man who deserts his duty for love and a murder caused by jealousy; with its dramatic, fast-paced plot and catchy music, Carmen is the perfect first opera for anyone new to the art form.

So it was that Bizet's signature work was chosen as source material for the recent Take Five summer school - an ambitious collaboration with five music education hubs in the Thames Gateway region (Thurrock, Havering, Barking and Dagenham, Essex and Southend). We brought together 83 young musicians who had the opportunity to work with 25 professional musicians. Two professional opera singers, Katy Batho and Darron Moore, rounded off the Company.

In conjunction with our fresh-faced cast and creative team, we decided that we'd explore the themes of Carmen from Micaëla’s angle; the challenges she faces as she watches Don José change before her eyes, and the decision she makes to confront him. We were determined there should be equal weight given to performing and creating so that the young people, all aged 10-18, could interpret and respond to the music they were playing: the results were incredibly moving.

From the beginning, we intended Take Five to give an authentic experience of the operatic process for young musicians and performers, and the packed schedule certainly reflected this - the first two days consisted of getting to know each other and working in group composition sessions. On the final day we fine-tuned and held the final performance.

Things really came together in the Sitzprobe (a seated rehearsal featuring both the cast and orchestra). During this, our wonderful conductor Tim Murray stitched together everything we had done over the last few days. The arrangements created by Martin Ward were so cleverly created that, whatever the instrumentalists’ age or ability, our young musicians could each contribute to the music making. The professional musicians from the ROH and Hubs were there throughout to support, mentor and offer top tips!

The performance that followed flew by in a flurry of excitement, nervousness, and wonder. To see young people and professionals playing side by side, to hear the applause of the audience and to see the smiles on everyone’s faces was a thrilling conclusion to the Take Five Project, and I hope an indication that there will be many more to come.

Take Five was generously supported by the Taylor Family Foundation. To find out more about our education, contact our Learning and Participation team.

By Freya Wynn-Jones (Chorus Director)

11 September 2013 at 4.24pm

This article has been categorised Learning and tagged by Francesca Zambello, Carmen, Essex, Production, Thames Gateway

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