Working with our company partner, Codi’r To, and our creative team, this pilot project engages with the local community in exploring what it means to be Welsh today, particularly post-Brexit and post-Covid. It does do so through the medium of opera. Since February a group of 17 children from Ysgol Glan Cegin (Maesgeirchen, Bangor) have been working with Codi’r To and our creative team, writing and rehearsing a bilingual opera in miniature, on the theme ‘Wales today / Cymru heddiw’. The project centres on the children using their everyday language and idioms, to bring out their views and opinions on what it means to be Welsh and to live in Wales today. The resulting opera in miniature, with music by renowned Welsh composer Gareth Glyn, will be performed as part of a public concert held in Pontio on 18 May 2023, performed by the children and Codi’r To.
In the UK opera is often seen and represented as a symbol of elite and elitist culture, something which is alien and inaccessible. This is not the case. Opera brings together the disparate arts to form an edifying whole, greater than the sum of its parts. It can be used as a metaphor for education, something which may seem that ‘it’s not for me’, especially in economically deprived areas. However, once the barriers of access and understanding are removed seems possible and relevant. Fundamentally opera is simply a dramatic story set to music: modern conventions of opera mean that the genre can encompass a broad range of interpretations, including rock opera, rap opera and hip opera. By making the concept of opera accessible and by engaging the students through participation and creation it breaks down socio-economic barriers and opens new possibilities and opportunities. Opera can be used as an effective means of discussing important cultural topics such as identity. Working collaboratively through words and music also allows the children to explore issues of isolation and digital over-exposure, which have become increasingly prevalent during the pandemic.
In addition to research findings the project will generate a cultural artefact reflecting the opinions and views of those arguably most affected by Brexit and Covid and those who don’t have a voice: children.