Education at Glyndebourne
"The most imaginative opera-education department in the country"
- The Independent
Formed in 1986, Glyndebourne Education’s remit has always been simple: to enhance the understanding and enjoyment of opera, whether for committed audience member or for opera sceptic. From creating work with schools and youth centres, arranging study events and pre-performance talks for audiences, to presenting large-scale community operas on the Glyndebourne stage, each of Glyndebourne Education’s initiatives has a clear aim – to get as diverse a group of people as possible to connect with opera.
The seeds of Glyndebourne’s outreach and education programme were sown as early as the 1950s when a concert performance of Fidelio was imported to HMP Lewes. Some 20 years later, Glyndebourne set up the biannual Kent and Sussex Schools Festival and, recognising the growing potential of working within the community, appointed a dedicated education organiser. In addition to a myriad local projects initiated each year, Glyndebourne Education has been responsible for a large percentage of Glyndebourne’s new commissions, many of which are presented on the main stage.
The focus of Glyndebourne Education’s work is in five key areas:
- New work
- Working with young audiences
- Working with the local community
- Professional growth
Behind each performance, whether in the Festival or the Tour, are a series of pre-performance talks and study events, often complemented by online resources and learning packs, which offer background and insight into each performance. Additionally, Glyndebourne Education has set up profiles on a series of social networking and media sites, which give users the opportunity to gain an in-depth view of the people behind the projects and provide an open forum through which everyone can engage.
“The work of the Glyndebourne Education department is integral to our commitment to ‘enrich people’s lives through opera’. All the work that they do provides a vital framework for fostering a dynamic relationship between artists and communities, and ensures that the art form continues to have relevance and impact for future generations.”
- David Pickard, General Director
Since 1990 Glyndebourne has commissioned large-scale operas for the community and young people to participate in and build wider audiences for opera. The first community opera involved over 300 people on Hastings Pier and was composed by Jonathan Dove, who went on to write two more community operas for Ashford and Peterborough. The youth operas Misper (1997) and Zoë (2000)(John Lunn/Stephen Plaice) and the hip hop version of Così fan tutte, School 4 Lovers (2006) brought the community to Glyndebourne with the operas presented on the main stage and gained the organisation a reputation for presenting innovative and groundbreaking work with young people. Knight Crew (2010) was the most recent initiative, placing work with young people and the community centre-stage with a new opera commission and a programme of participation and work related learning.
Glyndebourne Education and new work
The continuation of opera as a living art form, and consequently the creation of new works, is key to the role of every opera house. Glyndebourne Festival’s commissions for the main stage began with its collaboration with Benjamin Britten in the 1940s, resulting in the world premieres of both The Rape of Lucretia and Albert Herring. Since then the Festival has either premiered or commissioned a wide variety of work from composers including Stravinsky, Poulenc, Henze, Maw, Knussen, Osborne, Tippett, Birtwistle, and, most recently, Eötvös’ Love and other Demons. Glyndebourne Education has continued this important tradition with a series of new works involving the community, both for the main stage – Misper, Zoë and Knight Crew - and across the country (community operas in Hastings, Ashford and Peterborough and many of the new commissions have been for the tour).
Glyndebourne Education and new work
The newest and largest of Glyndebourne Education’s projects, Knight Crew is a large-scale community opera commissioned specifically for the main stage, involving every department at Glyndebourne. Presented in March 2010 with four performances, Knight Crew is an urban story based on the King Arthur legend, brought to the stage by a collaboration involving Glyndebourne’s first composer-in-residence, Julian Philips; librettist and award-winning author Nicky Singer; and director John Fulljames.
Under the umbrella title of the Round Table Project, a programme of participatory and work-related learning, more young people than ever before had the opportunity to take part in Knight Crew. Glyndebourne has initiated a programme of 20 skills workshops to provide support leading up to Knight Crew auditions. The workshops reached more than 450 young people - largely from rural and urban schools and communities - with little previous experience of similar initiatives, who joined members of Glyndebourne’s own Youth Opera Group at the final auditions. Additionally, Glyndebourne’s Round Table Project supported the delivery of the new work-related qualification, the Creative and Media Diploma, an integrated education initiative that explores creative and vocational learning and participation and is available to 14-18 year olds in Ringmer and Crawley. As well as ensuring the broadest number of local young people can participate, Knight Crew also aimed to increase parents’, carers’ and the local community’s involvement, through the formation of a ‘Mothers’ Chorus’.
Glyndebourne Education and young audiences
“Opera is the perfect introduction to classical and contemporary music for children, combining the music with characters and plot to make it relevant. This project was music education at its very best.”
- Angela Lowrie, Downs Junior School, Brighton
Glyndebourne Education’s projects for young audiences represent its largest area of work, with over 5,000 young people of all ages taking part every year in one of its many on going projects around the country. These include performances at Glyndebourne of specially-commissioned retellings of operas for local schools, a schools programme to accompany Glyndebourne on Tour and year-round training sessions and performances for primary and secondary school students through Glyndebourne Youth Opera.
- Glyndebourne Youth Opera
- Performance for Schools at Glyndebourne
- Opera Experience
Glyndebourne Youth Opera
Glyndebourne Youth Opera comprises three groups of young people from East and West Sussex of all abilities and talents, ranging from 8 to 19 years old. Organised into groups by age, participants work with professional musicians and directors to experience and create opera through a range of artistic processes, taking in all the art forms which collaborate to create an opera: music, drama, movement, design. Participants create their own work, often inspired by an opera from the Festival, with performance events ranging from informal workshops to staged productions.
Performances for Schools at Glyndebourne
Each year Performances for Schools at Glyndebourne gives over 3,000 school, further education and higher education students across South-East England the opportunity to watch an opera in a world-class international opera house. Performances prepare the students with a short introduction. Workshops often run alongside these performances, and teachers have the opportunity to attend a training session that demonstrates practical and creative ways of introducing opera to primary, secondary and sixth form students. The sessions are reinforced by a variety of learning packs and videos available for download from Glyndebourne’s website.
Opera Experience takes place in primary and secondary schools as part of Glyndebourne on Tour’s work with Glyndebourne Education. The project, which includes dedicated workshops, aims to provide an interactive operatic experience through newly commissioned mini-operas and specially arranged adaptations of repertoire works.
Glyndebourne Education and the local community
"Events like this show that life with dementia can be good and ‘normal’… it awoke something that was dormant in my husband – it gave him something to look forward to." - Music & Dementia workshop participant
Since first giving a concert performance of Fidelio for the inmates of HMP Lewes in the 1950s, Glyndebourne Education has steadily expanded the number of projects involving members of the local community. As well as year-round projects with young offenders, Glyndebourne Education initiates projects for a variety of other groups of people who are at risk of social exclusion.
- Prison projects
- Music & Dementia
- Widening access
Glyndebourne Education’s prison projects encourage young offenders from HMP Lewes to learn creatively, taking an opera in the season’s current repertoire as a starting point. For example, inmates recently explored the themes of Verdi's Falstaff through workshops which enabled them to design puppet shows, create their own marionettes, write scripts, compose music and design sets. The work was later performed to an invited audience of other inmates, prison governors and Glyndebourne staff.
This particular project aimed to increase the use of music technology and multi media software in the prison’s education department. We donated two iMac computers as well as an array of recording equipment for use in this project and for the day-to-day work of the department.
Music & Dementia
In Autumn 2008, Glyndebourne ran a pilot project for people with early to moderate-stage dementia and their carers. Taking an opera as a starting point, the sessions provided a focus for people facing the challenges of confusion and memory loss to engage with. The carers also benefited as it gave them an opportunity to share the pressure of caring and connect with others in similar circumstances. The project was run in partnership with Action in Rural Sussex and the Alzheimer’s Society – who together run the Lewes Villages Dementia Carers Support Service.
In 2008, to further enhance the Performances for Schools programme, Glyndebourne not only staged a signed performance of The Magic Flute (using British Sign Language) but also offered a bespoke workshop for the deaf and hearing impaired. The success of this led to an audio-described performance of Hänsel und Gretel, with an accompanying bespoke workshop for the blind and partially sighted, which included a ‘touch tour’ of the set and props department.
Glyndebourne Education and professional growth
Glyndebourne’s Composer in Residence scheme gives a young composer the opportunity to immerse themself in the work of an international opera house in order to further their own work in opera and music theatre, and to benefit Glyndebourne and the wider community through their creative skills. The selected composer observes and takes part in the Chorus Development Scheme, joins in the rehearsal process for a Festival or Tour production, and has access to a creative/production team. Commissions during the residency might include work for Chorus Development Scheme, Youth Opera and Education Projects. Julian Philips was Glyndebourne’s first Composer in Residence between 2006 and 2009.
Glyndebourne Education and collaborations
Collaboration is an integral part of opera. So it is unsurprising that many of Glyndebourne Education projects are run in partnership with other organisations – from schools and charities to government-funded initiatives and local authorities – helping Glyndebourne deliver projects to as broad a group of people as possible.
Sing Up Seahaven
During 2008 Glyndebourne was approached by Sing Up to establish a Sing Up community in Peacehaven and Newhaven to run from January 2009 until July 2010. We responded to this brief with Sing Up Seahaven, an 18-month programme designed to include Peacehaven Community School and Newhaven Tideway School within singing activities aimed at both primary and transition year children. The project also aimed to develop the skills of existing and potential vocal leaders contributing to sustainability of singing in schools. This Sing-Up community was led by Glyndebourne vocal tutors and worked with primary schools in the communities of Newhaven, Peacehaven, Seaford and Ringmer.