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Theme and variations

Sunday 15 March – Mothering Sunday to boot – saw the 37th Norfolk Schools Project performance at the Theatre Royal, Norwich. Introduced by the theatre’s chief executive Peter Wilson, Firside Junior School, Kinsale Junior School and Magdalen Gates Primary School each showcased their own devised opera based on Pucini’s La Bohème.

Not you might imagine the usual musical fodder for the under-11s. No surprises that it was the Café Momus scene which formed the core of each piece but two other motifs were very much to the fore. One was death and the ways in which survivors commemorate the departed. The other was a sense of unity, of working together.

Combined with well-known melodies from the opera itself – the love duets, the frost-bitten opening to Act Three, the death-knoll chords at the end of Act Four and the crowd bustle of Act Two – were musical sequences devised by the young performers themselves. Kinsale’s African composition (the Mimi character might well have contracted Ebola) was particularly effective.

Woven into the action of each opera were Puccini’s two heroines – Mimi and Musetta. Soprano Lynsey Docherty sang these two very different soprano roles – demeurely Victorian as sempstress Mimi and night-club glitter for Musetta. Cloaked and hooded she was a kindly, non-threatening avatar of Death itself.

The three musical directors were Charlie Caine for Firside, Will fergusson for Magdalen Gates and Mark Read for Kinsale. Stage direction was by Daniel Burgess (Firside), Rebecca Chapman (Magdalen Gates) and Bryony Moore (Kinsale). The overall creative and musical director was Howard Moody.

All the performers will attend a performance of English Touring Opera’s production of La Bohème during the week of 23 March and will be given six ticket vouchers to attend performances of their choice over the next 12 months. It will be fascinating to discover which shows they choose.

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Filed under Reviews 2015