Digital Opera Making Workshops

In May 2020, CYO launched our Digital Opera Making Workshops for 11 – 18 year olds, as well as a short programme for primary schools, both funded by a generous Arts Council England Emergency Grant.

The Opera Making Workshops offered the opportunity for participants to learn about composition, libretto writing, characterisation, how to practice, move on stage, work with a pianist and even some insights into directing opera. At the same time, the young people worked in small groups with mentors to produce their own work, based on any aspect of opera that interested them. Each group chose a topic to work on and developed it over a six week period, before presenting to everybody in the final workshop. The workshops and mentor groups produced an outpouring of creativity that exceeded our wildest expectations.

The English National Opera picked up on the quality of the work and recommended to Arts Council England that it be featured in an online exhibition of artwork produced by young people under lockdown, giving our young creative artists a national and even international audience:

The six mentor groups produced:

Vignettes of Lockdown

A set of compositions by a group aged 14 – 18. The participants explored reactions to lockdown from a range of widely varying perspectives, writing and performing in close collaboration. They presented a highly finished video including the overture and five songs.

Watch the whole video
Overture by Annie (14)
The Moon – Music by Rachel (16), Lyrics by Garrett (18). Performed by Rachel and Sarah (16)
Meet Again. Music and Lyrics by Garrett (18). Performed by Garret and Isabella (14)

The Phoenix

A narrated dance piece by a group aged 11-13, who created a fully developed story line, musical motifs, choreography and designs. The final performance, shown in the video below, combined story-telling, dance and music based on the participants’ motifs.

Hunter motif, Yahel age 11
Owl costume by Tove, age 11

The Zopera

A family Zoom call reimagined: the group, aged 12- 15, created a cast of highly recognisable characters on a family Zoom call at the height of lockdown, writing words and music for an amusing work in the new genre, the Zopera. We meet elderly Alan who lives alone and has just discovered Zoom, Megan, Alan’s grandaughter, who is struggling to cope with her dad’s constant worries about the virus, Alan’s sister, Betty who bakes all day, Betty’s daughter Rose, an exhausted and stressed key worker and Iona the Moaner, Rose’s 13 year old daughter.

The video is taken from their live performance, on Zoom.

Watch the whole Zopera
Teenage Iona moans about lockdown

Don Giovanni – A “me too” production

A direction and design oriented group of 13 – 17 year olds preferred working with an existing opera and created a concept, set and costume designs for a production of Don Giovanni set in 1950s Hollywood in a world of powerful producers and the women they exploited and discarded.

Set design by Georgia (15) – Don Giovanni’s Hollywood Mansion
Storyboard of the final scene of Don Giovanni by Fleur (16), using Georgia’s design


Peter and the Bear

This dramatic and magical story story, created by a group of 11 – 13 year olds, found expression in a libretto and musical motifs, complete with costume and set concepts.


Magic music to lift up Peter. Zac (13)
Set design: how to create a water effect when cloths are cliché. Quinn (11)

Vegas Story

Vegas Story took the form of a detailed pitch for a commission with a futuristic storyline, fully developed characters and design suggestions. The group, aged 12 – 15, developed a highly entertaining story, set in a dystopian future Las Vegas among environmental activists and secret societies. They also researched potential composers, arriving at a shortlist of John Adams, Jennifer Higdon and Philip Glass.

Coach / mentors for the project were

  • Caroline Coetzee (CYO Artistic Director) – Don Giovanni
  • Alastair Chilvers (CYO Musical Director) – Peter and the Bear
  • Russell Hepplewhite (Composer) – Lockdown Vignettes
  • Julia Caddick (Vocal Coach) – The Zopera
  • Marion Dall Caldwell (Pianist) – The Phoenix
  • Kate Durrant (Choreographer and Movement Coach) – Vegas Story