The Little Black Cat

About the project | Project activities | The Team

About the project

Autumn 2021 sees the launch of one of our most exciting projects to date. CYO will work with young people and the Norwich Puppet Theatre (NPT) to create and perform a new opera, based on a Japanese folktale, The Little Black Cat. The opera will be performed as part of the Cambridge Summer Music Festival in July 2022, with further performances planned in Norwich. We believe that this will be the first project of its type, locally, nationally and even internationally: a high quality community opera, created collaboratively by children and young people for children and young people.

We will work with the Norwich Puppet theatre and school partners to:

  • Grow the experience of young people in both opera and puppetry
  • Create an imaginative and high quality artwork and to attract and engage audiences, with a particular emphasis on children and young people
  • Build the confidence and support the well being of participants by enabling them to collaborate in a supportive environment with their peers and coaches
  • Develop a range of transferrable skills in all participants
  • For those considering a career in the arts, provide a range of practical skills and first hand experience and knowledge to support their journey

Our school partners for this project include Chesterton Community College, The Netherhall School, Witchford Village College and Downham Market Academy.

We will create a video version of the opera, which will include a set of teaching resources, aimed at its ongoing used as a classroom introduction to opera and puppetry.

For more information, please see the Project and Engagement Plan at the foot of this page.

Project activities

The project will work primarily with 11-19 year olds, with activities including:

  • Composing and writing: we will run a series of workshops for 11-13 year olds and 14 – 19 year olds, as well as working with our school partners, to create the opera from scratch.
    • For 11 – 13 year olds, activities will take place in Cambridge at Chesterton Community College
    • For 14 – 19 year olds, most activities will be online – you will be able to sign in from anywhere
    • This phase will run from October to December 2021, with most activities taking place on Tuesday evenings
  • Singing: we will work with singers across our age range, holding open auditions and engaging singers in the creative process before rehearsing and performing the work. SIngers will be actively involved in the composition process, as well as in the performance elements. We will work with Chesterton Community College, Witchford Village College and Downham Market Academy on the rehearsal and recording of the chorus of cats, which will form an important element of the work
  • Costumes, stage management and technical theatre: we will offer the full range of activities required to support the production. The technical elements will be offered with our venue partner, the Storey’s Field Centre
  • Rehearsals and production workshops are planned to run between January and July 2022. We aim to work around the exam period, to accommodate participants taking GCSEs and A-levels
  • Puppetry: all elements of the puppetry (design, making and performance) will be run by the NPT, who will be recruiting separately as part of their strategy to create an inhouse youth puppet theatre

We will offer activities in six – eight week modules, enabling young people to get involved across the project or to focus on those activities that interest them most.

The team

Caroline Coetzee   
Artistic Director 
Project lead / Creative coach: Libretto, Stage Direction
Project manager              

Marion Dall Caldwell 
Creative Coach / Pianist
Creative coach: Music,

Alastair Chilvers 
Musical Director
Project lead: Musical Rehearsal and Performance
Creative coach: Music

Julia Caddick
Creative Coach / Vocal Coach
Creative coach: Vocal Writing
Project lead: Vocal Technique

Russell Hepplewhite 
Project lead / Creative Coach: Composition

Georgia Piano
Stage Manager and Lead Technician

If you would like to more information about any area of this project, please contact

The composition of The Little Black Cat is funded by generous grants from Cambridgeshire Music and The D’Oyly Carte Charitable Trust.