Outreach & Education
Alongside the production of La Bohème HeadFirst Productions worked with Addaction, the leading drug and alcohol rehabilitation charity in the UK, to provide opera workshops and free production tickets for those suffering with drug or alcohol dependency. Due to the way in which Puccini’s opera was reimagined in the 2014 production – set in a degenerative, urban environment where adults and young people alike are trapped within a cycle of drug and alcohol abuse – the cast and production team was keen to engage with the real life communities that were explored within the opera.
HeadFirst Productions is proud to have been the first theatre company to work with Addaction.
Sophie and her team wrote to me early of 2014 with the idea of introducing ‘Opera’ as an approach to recovery. My initial thought was that there would be enough interest from service users to get this as a concept off the ground, and I really felt that our service users wouldn’t take to singing. But these were my prejudices and I was wrong.
I brought the matter to our team meeting and found that staff were interested and supportive and wanted to also participate. From here it was an easy sell to convince our service users to take part.
Within three sessions Sophie and her team were able to get our Opera Group to write an opera, the theme being recovery (week one), find their voice and sing in tandem with others (week two), move and have stage presence in tandem whilst in song and preform in front of an audience (week three).
The audience was made up of professionals in our field as well as service users and due to the subject matter, recovery, there were many tear filled eyes. I sat watching and listening to reactions and I was honestly amazed at how quickly a group was developed, encouraged to find their own voice for lyrics and song, and to perform.
Sophie was also able to arrange for a number of the service users to watch the production La Bohème, in Italian, a new experience for all who went and who thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
The service users who took part in our little production have since gone on to become Recovery Champions and apart from promoting the concept of recovery amongst service users they are active in promoting service user rights with us, our partners, the local authority and Public Health England.
These workshops were character building, building their confidence and enabling them to face the demands of a challenge, on a personal and team level. What was achieved in three sessions takes us between three to six months to achieve."
Remon – Service Manager
Sevenoaks School students' workshop, 2013
In March 2013, HeadFirst Productions ran an afternoon workshop with students from Sevenoaks School and followed up with individual coaching sessions and a final rehearsal before a public performance. This tied in with the gala concert, Tonight at the Opera, and provided a unique opportunity for young people to perform alongside exceptional, professional musicians.
The purpose of the workshop was to work on communicating the story in a particular piece of music to the audience. Each student arrived having begun to learn an aria or duet from either a musical or an opera. Artistic Director, Sophie, then worked with each student individually - in front of the rest of the group - to elicit the meaning of each piece and prepare the students for performance.
Many of the students had never performed on a stage before. The workshop prepared them for performance by engaging each student with the context of each piece of music and building their confidence in front of their peers. Three quarters of the workshop participants then went on to sing in front of a paying audience, and were followed by an hour of classical music from a professional pianist and four opera singers.
"... wonderful, a real feast and totally inspiring; really brilliant idea.”
“We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and thought the entertainment was of the highest quality.”
“Amazing! I laughed, I cried. Can't wait until La Bohème!”
“What a great evening, and such amazing talent.”
“Completely awesome event. The young (Sevenoaks School) singers in Act One were great. How wonderful to watch a seamless, pacy show without any of the agonising, clunky gaps between individual performances that seem to be the feature of school events. Every performer engaged the audience, and found meaning and heart in every song / aria. Real performances! Note to school: your students can do it if you create the conditions! Act Two was awesome - fabulous voices delivering an hour of opera magic with pace, charm, and emotion. No props, no scenery, no costumes - just blistering talent.”