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Manchester Contemporary Youth Opera

This summer has been a busy one indeed! From performing at the first night of the BBC Proms 2018, a live performance from Amiens Cathedral in Northern France, to a wonderful concert with NYCGB at Snape Maltings, it will certainly be one to remember! To conclude this fantastic summer of music making, I am taking part in a fantastic course with MCYO (Manchester Contemporary Youth Opera).

What is MCYO?

In its second year as an organisation, MCYO is an exciting course -  co directed by Richard Strivens and Nina Whiteman - that offers young musicians the opportunity to create, produce and perform brand new contemporary operas, with support from specialist creatives from within the industry. Course members gain an insight into all aspects of the opera industry, ranging from movement skills to production. Vocalists receive coaching from international opera singers Emma Bell and Michael Bennet. MCYO collaborates with the wonderful 'Vonnegut Collective', a chamber ensemble formed by BBC Philharmonic members Gary Farr (trumpet) and Gemma Bass (violin).

A timeline of events - Singer's Perspective

I received my scores in the post prior to the course starting, which gave me sufficient time to understand the characters I would be portraying and to get to grips with the music. Being new to the world of contemporary opera, I was admittedly nervous and unsure as to what to expect of the course. However, after coaching sessions on my roles, I soon found that I stood in very good stead and was in fact very well prepared.

The first day consisted of team building activities and discussions, giving me the chance to get to know the other participants and the roles (both musically and characteristically) they had undertaken. Rehearsals took place predominantly at the RNCM - making me feel at home, being an RNCM student myself - with many rehearsals taking place at the concert venue, 'The International Anthony Burgess Foundation'. During fantastic coaching sessions with Emma Bell and Michael Bennet, I was able to work on repertoire of my own choice. I chose to sing 'Deh vieni, non tardar' from 'Le nozze di Figaro' by Mozart, and 'Il fervido desiderio' by Bellini. The coaching sessions were extremely helpful and I was lucky enough to sing though the Mozart during a group sharing performance which was indeed an invaluable experience.

The five operas have been rehearsed extensively over the last two weeks and and have each been filmed. The video footage will soon be available on YouTube.


I am very excited to be participating in all five operas, with singing roles in four. 

'Out to Lunch' by Pierre Flasse - Shopkeeper

'In the Hope of Rain' by Isabel Benito - Emily

'The Hidden Veil' by Caroline Bordignon - Soprano

'What Happened to Anne?' by Dominic Matthews - Chorus

You can find out more about the operas from the composers themselves by visiting the MCYO Facebook page:

What have I found exciting?

Being the first person to perform a role is extremely exciting. It is a strange feeling, having no "shoes to fill" and having no video or audio to be influenced by, I loved the freedom to put my own stamp on the role - in collaboration with the composers.

Working with and meeting other musicians has been fantastic. There is great diversity amongst members of the course - all being at different stages within our careers. I have found it extremely beneficial to be working with Masters and PhD students and feel that I have been constantly learning whilst on the course.

Seeing the operas come together throughout the duration of the course has been so rewarding. Each and every member of the course has worked extremely hard, and it is wonderful to see that all of the hard work has paid off.

Where and When?

The operas will be performed at 'The International Anthony Burgess Foundation' on Friday 7th September 2018. Performance times will be 1pm, 5:30pm and 7:30pm. For more information on how to get hold of tickets, head to:

Get involved!

I would definitely recommend the course to anybody who is intrigued by contemporary opera and wants to learn more. I have enjoyed the course so much and have made so many wonderful friends through it. Contemporary opera is definitely something I want further involvement with in the future! If you are thinking of participating in MCYO 2019, follow the link to the MCYO website for more information:

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