Pupils in for a scare with Scottish Opera’s Primary Schools show

The cast of the Curse of MacCabbra Opera House

SCOTTISH Opera’s primary schools production, The Curse of MacCabbra Opera House, begins its sold-out tour around Scotland in February and, for the very first time, is also available for only £100 as a digital only learning and teaching experience. 

A chilling tale with a good dose of comedy, The Curse of MacCabbra Opera House features music from composer Alan Penman and lyrics from writer and director Johnny McKnight. The 30-minute gothic horror opera for P5-P7 will be performed until June in schools all over Scotland, as well as in five Newcastle primaries. 

Schools can take part in the project two ways: as a digital only learning and teaching experience using online resources Scottish Opera provides to prepare pupils for all aspects of presenting a performance to an audience, or a hybrid digital and live learning and teaching experience for up to 100 pupils. If schools choose the hybrid version, on the morning of the workshop, Scottish Opera’s team of musicians, singers and drama specialists spend four hours working with pupils to rehearse and perform a show in their school for classmates, friends and family, complete with fabulous costumes.

The online resources are available now from Scottish Opera’s website, and provide everything teachers need to prepare their pupils for a performance in their own school for family and friends. They can simply download a PDF of the lyrics and score, videos and audio files to rehearse the songs and dance moves. These include easy-to-follow teaching aids for the five songs in The Curse of MacCabbra Opera House, alongside fun curriculum-based learning activities which can be carried out in class, assigned as homework tasks or used for assessment purposes. Learning activities will cover marketing and publicity, ticket pricing, letting children try their hand at creative writing and costume design, giving them an insight into all the different work that goes on behind the scenes to bring an opera to the stage, and helping build excitement for their fabulous performance day.

The Curse of MacCabbra Opera House is designed to work in line with the Curriculum for Excellence to enhance lessons already taught in classrooms, and help staff implement some of its experiences and outcomes, using active and co-operative learning approaches. It provides development opportunities for the following attributes and capabilities of CfE’s four capacities: successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors. As well as Expressive Arts, the workshops and extension activities support Literacy & English, Health and Wellbeing, Numeracy and Maths and Technologies. 

Scottish Opera’s Education and Outreach programme has featured in Primary Schools for over 50 years, and teachers from schools which have already taken part agree that the tour broadened the children’s cultural experiences, improved team work skills, increased cultural confidence as well as singing ability, and supported the aims of Curriculum for Excellence.

The production follows writers Compo Zerr and Libby Retto as they work late into the night to finish their new opera at the MacCabbra Opera House. But there’s more to their helpful host Dee Parton than meets the eye, and as the clock strikes midnight the singers, workers and critics of the old Opera House rise from their graves to give Compo and Libby some horrifying help! Can Compo and Libby hold their nerve to finish their masterpiece? Will the singers get to put on one final performance? Will the workers revolt? Are the critics just revolting?

Scottish Opera Director of Education and Outreach Jane Davidson MBE said: “Scottish Opera is delighted to announce an exciting new development to their awarding winning Primary Schools programme: stage an opera with 100 pupils for only £100! The Curse of MacCabbra Opera House also gives pupils the opportunity to explore many other front of house and backstage activities that are an essential part of creating a successful show, making Scottish Opera’s primary tour one of the most integrated cross curricular learning experiences in the school calendar.

“We’re thrilled to the bone to introduce this creepy and kooky opera to second level pupils across the country and even better, schools can involve 100 or more of their pupils for the digital resource pack costing just £100. Located in a gloomy Highland glen, the long forgotten MacCabbra Opera House’s doors are creaking open once more to welcome a new generation of young performers. Come up with us if you dare; meet the mysterious Madame Dee Parton and the cast and company of the opera as they race to stage a new opera before the sun comes up!”

For more details about The Curse of MacCabbra Opera, visit www.scottishopera.org.uk/join-in/opera-for-schools/the-curse-of-maccabbra-opera-house/ 

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