It’s very simple.
Our priority is to remove the sense of elitism around going to an opera or taking part in it. We know that people listen to opera on Classic FM or BBC Radio 3, have opera CDs, or hear opera in films and enjoy it hugely, but are nervous about attending live opera in a theatre or being part of an opera project.
We want to enhance people’s understanding and grow their enjoyment of opera, whether they are opera lovers, new to opera or ‘opera sceptics’ and to encourage repeat attendance. Swansea City Opera believes that opera has a great deal of relevance to today’s communities. Our outreach projects equip participants with the tools and knowledge to maximise their enjoyment of taking part in something truly special. Swansea City Opera’s high-quality projects have other benefits beyond music: people grow their self-confidence, make new connections, and meet new friends lessening social isolation.
We’ve rehearsed and coached amateur choirs including people who have had no previous experience of opera, who can’t read music, or have never been on stage before. Our supportive and friendly community projects welcome people with a love of music. People can choose to be in the chorus (which we promise will not be hard to learn!), as an extra on stage or behind the scenes.
As well as being delivered in theatres and arts venues, our community performances take place in a wide range of venues including village halls and other community spaces in Wales.
Our goal is to create an easily accessible opera involving amateur chorus along with professional singers and musicians that everyone – people taking part and audiences – can enjoy.
Shoulder to Shoulder – Men’s Sheds
In July 2021 we put the call out to members of Men’s Sheds (link) to tell us their stories to help us create a pilot piece of opera. Called Shoulder to Shoulder, the opera has a libretto written by Brendan Wheatley with original music by composer Caradog Williams.
Our co-directors Brendan Wheatley and Bridgett Gill met “Shedders” in person when Covid restrictions allowed.
We heard some humorous and some heart-breaking stories reflecting life’s ups and downs. All the men we talked to had found strength and friendship from their pals in the Shed communities.
The project has been supported by Arts Council Wales and National Lottery Community Fund.
For more information go to
Shoulder to Shoulder | Swansea City Opera | Opera Dinas Abertaw
Tl: 01874 690254
Address: Rhydyberi Cottages, Merthyr Cynog, Brecon, Powys LD3 9SA
Cultural Heritage Project in Lebanon funded by The British Council
The British Council’s £30m Cultural Protection Fund, in partnership with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, is set up to protect cultural heritage at risk due to conflict in the Middle East and North Africa.
Swansea City Opera received a grant from the British Council’s Cultural Heritage fund, and we were the first Welsh arts organisation to do so!
Working with three partner organisations: SHIELD an NGO that works with refugees in the south, Dreams of a Refugee, another NGO that works with refugees in Shatila, and The American University of Beirut.
The project captured and recorded the intangible heritage of the occupants of two refugee camps, Shatila in Beirut and Rashedieh camp in the south of Lebanon. We recorded the heritage of Palestinian refugees, Syrian refugees – who now make up 45% of the population of some camps.
We also recorded the heritage of the camps themselves – camps such as Shatila have existed for more than 70 years and have developed their own traditions including music, oral history, and festivals.
We trained refugees to research and record their own heritage through memories and stories. The oral histories and creative traditions supported refugees to preserve their cultural identities despite being displaced from their countries of origin.
We searched for any intangible heritage such as memories of music, oral histories, dance, singing, festivals/ ceremonies, falconry, and crafts including embroidery and costumes.
The project ran until the end of December 2019, and it was a privilege to undertake it.
Here are a few photos of our first trip taken in Shatila camp.
The large key in the fourth photo is a powerful symbol of hope to the refugee communities that one day they will be allowed to return to their homelands. The Facebook link takes you to recordings of two special events at the camps organised by young people.
The American University of Beirut now hosts the website and records of the project.
Funded by the Heritage Lottery
Funded by the Heritage Lottery and Arts Council Wales.
In 2017, Swansea City Opera worked with five diverse community groups in Swansea: the Chinese Community Centre, Unity in Diversity, YMCA, Sisters in Sanctuary and the African Community Centre as well as four schools: Bishop Gore Secondary School, Blaen y Maes Primary School, Cefn Hengoed Community Secondary School and Parkland Primary School in a unique project exploring the cultural traditions and heritage that different communities bring to the city of Swansea.
Each group chose a different theme through which they shared their cultural heritage and what it has brought to Swansea. The groups shared traditions such as dance, food, drumming, song, music, and storytelling whilst the schools told the story of refugees from war-torn countries through their own version of Dido and Aeneas by Purcell. It was a hugely enjoyable project and great fun.
Musical Routes developed a dedicated website about the project.
Musical Routes – Migrant Communities Heritage Project (wordpress.com)
The project culminated in May with a mini-festival day at the National Waterfront Museum https://museum.wales/swansea/
where the groups and school pupils performed. The project also featured a six-month-long exhibition at Swansea Museum. http://www.swanseamuseum.co.uk
Here’s a video of the project https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=588hJ6bGGc8 in the run-up to the mini-festival and the exhibition
There are also more photos here:
Musical Routes (@mroutesproject) • Instagram photos and videos
SCO’s education aims have always been simple:
From creating and staging new work with schools and community groups, to arranging participatory workshops and pre-performance talks for audiences, all of SCO’s outreach work has a clear remit – for as diverse a group of people as possible to connect with opera.
Swansea City Opera has toured opera the length and breadth of the UK often to Community First and Objective 1 areas. At almost every venue, a performance features a free pre-show to share the background of the opera, its story, and music and opera as an artform to enhance people’s enjoyment and develop their understanding of opera. The talks by Artistic Director Brendan Wheatley are suitable for both experienced opera-goers and people completely new to opera alike.
TOUR OF DON PASQUALE
In 2013, our tour of Donizetti’s Don Pasquale featured workshops that developed people’s soft skills by exploring opera and developing vocal skills. The project reached over 120 people – drawn from single parent groups, young people at risk of school exclusion, older people, and health and well-being projects.
TOUR OF MOZART’S THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO
The 2014 tour featured Exploring Opera workshops in community venues.
Working with Arts Education Officers, Communities First Partnerships and other stakeholders, we delivered fun and enjoyable workshops which introduced people to opera, often for the first time. The project gave people the opportunity to watch opera at their local theatre at a concessionary rate.
TOWER OPERA PROJECT
In 2000, the Tower opera project connected 17 schools and five choirs through a specially commissioned opera written by Alun Hoddinott. The opera explored the stories of the Tower Colliery in Hirwaun which was the last deep pit in Wales. Tower was written specifically to include community participation with choruses for Children and Male Voice Choir.
The project spanned school workshops, performance participation, teacher inset days and community workshops across Wales.
FROM CARS TO MARS
In 2006, Swansea City Opera created From Cars to Mars, Wales first ever Street Opera, which was a specially devised community opera created in partnership with Dragon Arts in Swansea.
The project developed the skills of homeless and disadvantaged people and culminated in performances at the National Waterfront Museum in Swansea and at Y Senydd – The National Assembly for Wales.
Commissioned by Cumbria’s Eden Arts link https://www.edenarts.co.uk/about-eden-arts, Swansea City Opera created Time a project which connected schools, youth groups, and the University of the Third Age in the Eden Valley to create a community opera with local storytellers about ‘time’. The project included four mini-performances in hospitals and residential care centres.
The scope of Swansea City Opera’s work in education ranges from in-depth, intensive residencies in schools leading to one-off workshops to short performances. The projects are designed to develop and enrich an understanding of opera as well as the development of soft skills such as teamwork, self-confidence, and self-esteem.
With our wide networks of expert, high-quality education and outreach specialists across the UK, Swansea City Opera can work with you to devise projects specific to your school or community organisation.
If you are interested in talking to us, please ring Bridgett Gill on 01874 690254 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
The ‘Tower’ opera project in 2000 connected 17 schools and five choirs with a specially commissioned opera written by Alun Hoddinott. His opera about the last deep pit in Wales – Tower Colliery in Hirwaun – was written specifically to include community participation with choruses for Children and Male Voice Choir. The project spanned school workshops, performance participation, teacher inset days and community workshops across Wales.
Swansea City Opera delivered Wales’ first Street Opera – ‘From Cars to Mars’ – a specially devised community opera, in partnership with Dragon Arts in Swansea. The project developed the skills of homeless and disadvantaged people culminating in performances at The National Waterfront Museum in Swansea and again later at Y Senydd – The National Assembly for Wales.
A project in the Eden Valley, Cumbria, commissioned by Eden Arts, saw schools, youth groups and the University of the Third Age working to develop a community opera with local storytellers on the subject of ‘Time’. The project included four mini-performances in hospitals and residential care centres.
Brendan and Bridget opened the group to a fantastic opportunity and a real flavour of opera. Their approach and pace was perfect. Tights and toupee’s is a drama group for people with disabilities. The group gained so much from Brendan and Bridget and their intro to Opera. A valuable workshop for all people. 5 Stars! Thank you!
The scope of Swansea City Opera’s work in education ranges from in-depth, intensive residencies in schools leading to short performances to one-off workshops – all designed to develop and enrich an understanding of Opera. With wide networks of expert, high quality education specialists across the UK, Swansea City Opera can work with you to devise projects specific to your school and cohort. If you are interested in talking to us please ring Bridgett Gill on 01874 690254 or email email@example.com