Leeds-based opera company Opera North (ON) has announced a full programme of events and activities aimed at young singers and instrumentalists. The company is also looking forward to the Opera North Youth Company being the first through the doors when the redeveloped Howard Opera Centre opens this summer.

Young singers will be the first to benefit from ON’s £18m redevelopment project in Leeds this summer as the company prepares to open its new Education Studio in the city. Activities in the new Howard Opera Centre will form part of a range of opportunities available for 300 young people over the coming months, including the launch of the Opera North Youth Orchestra for those aspiring to become professional musicians.

The studio will provide a focal point for the company’s work with young singers and instrumentalists, who will also be able to access the new rehearsal spaces which have been created for the Chorus and Orchestra of Opera North. When the centre opens in August, the Opera North Youth Chorus will be the first performers to utilise the space as they come together for a week-long project with pianist, composer and sound artist James Batty, director Gemma Woffinden, Youth Chorus Master Nicholas Shaw and Vocal Animateur Marie-Claire Breen.

Jacqui Cameron, education director of Opera North, commented: “We are thrilled to be moving into our new Education Studio this summer – and are particularly excited that our Youth Chorus will be the first to use the Howard Opera Centre on Harrison Street, even beating the Chorus and Orchestra through the doors. It’s just one more indication of how committed we are to the musicians of the future and to nurturing their talent.”

The Opera North Youth Company is the junior performing wing of Opera North, providing vocal and drama training for young people aged 8-19. Young singers can register their interest online now, with auditions to be held in the summer. No prior knowledge of opera is required to join, simply a love of telling stories through music, a desire to develop skills in singing and stagecraft, and a passion for performance.

Young instrumentalists are also being offered a range of opportunities to help further their musical education. These include, for school-age orchestral players, a Woodwind and Horn Academy from 1-2 June and a Brass Academy from 3-4 June. Both will be held at Yeadon Town Hall in Leeds.

Young string players will be able to take part in an immersive four-day Strings Academy in the Howard Opera Centre from 16-19 August. Participants in all three academies will have the chance to learn from and play with members of the Orchestra of Opera North and Opera North education specialists.

The Opera North Summer Orchestra Academy will run from 23-28 August for talented young musicians at grade 7 and above. Non-residential this year, entry will be by audition only, ensuring that the event can be tailored to the needs of the participants with everyone appropriately challenged in an inspirational and supportive environment.

New this autumn is the Opera North Youth Orchestra which aims to help 16- to 21-year-old orchestral players transition from further education and regional youth orchestras into the professional world of music.

Designed for those keen to pursue a career in music, it seeks to provide the next generation of musicians from the north of England and beyond with inspiration and guidance. Successful applicants will be mentored by members of the Orchestra of Opera North and work in the Howard Opera Centre with professional conductors and soloists.

For 8- to 11-year-olds with a more general interest in theatre, ON’s popular Opera North Creative Camp returns during the summer holidays at Herd Farm on the outskirts of Leeds. Over the course of five days, the children will explore all aspects of putting an opera on the stage, including script writing, acting, composition, set and costume design, and stagecraft. They and their families will also be treated to a special performance of Opera North’s Whistle Stop Opera: The Magic Flute which will provide the inspiration for the week’s activities.

“We are acutely aware of the impact the pandemic has had on young people and their ability to practice, perform and enjoy music together,” Cameron continued. “So we were keen to provide face-to-face activities over the next few months to fill that gap. We hope that we have succeeded in providing something to suit a variety of ages and levels of musical ability.”

All activities will be designed specifically for Covid-safe learning according to the latest government advice and to keep participants and staff safe throughout. Bookings and expressions of interest can be made online. Financial support is available for anyone who finds cost a barrier to participation.



Opera North will be holding a series of focused academies for young musicians this summer (Justin Slee).