One of the themes of my mayoral year is to highlight opportunities for young people to be active participants in the arts. So I was thrilled to hear earlier in the year that there were moves to organise a youth opera group in Cambridge. Cambridge Youth Opera Society’s first production is Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas which was staged at St Mary’s School for two nights at the beginning of this week.
Yvonne Williamson and Roger Bond, current and former Heads of Music from Chesterton Community College, were respectively the musical and choral directors. Julia Caddick was the vocal cach and Caroline Coetzee was responsible for staging as well as being the overall director of the venture.
After a prelude of Fantasia and Chacony by the string orchestra, Caroline Coetzee outlined the history of the project, telling us how most of the cast had previously not had singing lessons and how they had had a key involvement in the scenery design and production, and the choreography.
The setting of the piece was familiar to afficionados of 1950s teen rock shows. The quality of the solo and choral singing was stunning. There was a lot of lively action on stage. The overall sense, beyond the high quality of the production, was that the performers were really comfortable in what they were doing, and their evident sense of enjoyment was communicated to the audience.