Schools Education and Audience Development Programme

The Blackwater Vallery Opera Festival is committed to providing access to local children to help to build opera audiences of the future. In 2012, 200 local schoolchildren from Waterford, Tipperary and Cork were invited to attend the dress rehearsal, at which President Michael D. Higgins was guest of honour, thus inaugurating the Festival’s annual schools’ access programme. The opera was explained to the students beforehand, and they got a glimpse behind the scenes of one of the most exciting of all art forms. For most, it was their first experience of opera.

President Higgins praised the vision and foresight of the organisers of what was then known as the Lismore Opera Festival: “Lismore Opera Festival was founded by a group of people with a love for opera and music and an idea to bring it to this beautiful part of Ireland. The festival provides opportunities for Irish singers, and it creates seasonal employment, stimulating the local ecnomy. I am reminded of my inaugural speech when I spoke about the importance of working in partnership and inclusion, and this festival epitomises parptnership as professionals and volunteers work together drwawing on the goodwill and support of the local community. It is growing in support and standing both nationally and internationally.”

This tradition continues in 2018 (see below), with the Blackater Valley Opera Festival’s dress rehearsal on 29 May reserved for local schools.
It is done with the generous support of the David Ross Foundation

3 Students visiting the opera in 2018, wrote down their experiences. Why don’t you read the the recount of Pippa, Isobel or Gráinne.

My Foundation is committed to broadening the horizons of all young people, and our experience shows the inspirational power of top quality classical music. We are delighted to be working with the Blackwater Valley Opera Festival for the second year and continuing our partnership to educate and give children a foundation in the beauty of music for life.”

David Ross, Founder David Ross Foundation

Information for Schools, Teachers and Young People

Five Tips Before Going to Your First Opera

1. What is opera?
Opera has been around for hundreds of years but that doesn’t make it old news. Opera is an exciting display of incredible singing, costuming, scenery, and plots filled with life, death, love, tragedy, and so much more. “Opera” is plural for the word “opus” which means work, and opera is the blending of multiple works: music, text, costumes, dance, staging, scenery, emotion. Regardless of what your interest is, you can always find something that you can relate to. While this art form is full of tradition, it is easily accessible and meant to be enjoyed by all, regardless of operatic knowledge.

2. Opera singers are athletes
When you’re watching these singers on stage, remember that they are performing a multiple hour production from memory. They have not just memorized the text but also the entire score (music), they are singing in a different language (with correct pronunciation), acting, while covered in makeup, wearing heavy and elaborate costumes, performing under hot lights, and singing over an entire orchestra without any form of amplification.

3. Forget what you think you know about opera and try it!
There are a lot of stereotypes about opera performances and opera audiences that do not match the experience at the Blackwater Valley Opera Festival. Yes, there is an orchestra and the story is primarily told through singing, but there is a full plot to follow, dynamic scenery and costumes – all of the performing arts at once! And while you may see an elegantly dressed couple enjoying an evening out at the opera, you’re also likely to see young hipsters, multi-generational families, and many other types of people at performances.

4. Come prepared
A little background before attending helps you enjoy the performance better. Don’t worry about spoiling the ending! Arrive a few minutes early, read the synopsis in the program to become familiar with the plot, and enjoy the whole opera experience. It’s also a good idea to listen to a few of the “greatest hits” from the opera (easily found on YouTube) so that you recognize some of the melodies and it feels familiar while you’re sitting in the audience. You might even surprise yourself with how much you already recognize!

5. Opera is about the whole experience
The whole evening should be enjoyable. Take advantage of the intermission that allow you to stretch your legs, read the program notes, use the restroom, check out the orchestra, and reflect on what you’ve just experienced in the opera. It’s about enjoying the whole experience; being in the gardens and at the stables of Lismore Castle, people watching, being absorbed in the drama and music, wrapping yourself up in the excitement of the entire event.


Synopsis for schools
A synopsis is simply a clear, factual summary of an opera’s or novel’s story line. A synopsis is typically 500-800 words.
The synopsis of L’Italiana in Algeri can be found on our website.

L’Italiana in Algeri is an opera by an Italian composer called Gioacchino Rossini.
Rossini was 21 when he wrote the opera, and he says it took him just 18 days. Some people say he was exaggerating. L’Italiana in Algeri was a huge hit for Rossini. He was established as one of the greatest opera composers that ever lived. The opera is still adored around the world today.

The opera is about a man called Mustafa who is the governor of Algiers. He becomes friends with a backpacker, a man called Lindoro who is always talking about how much he loves Italian women. Most of all Lindoro loves an Italian woman called Isabella.
Mustafa decides that he too must have an Italian girlfriend even though he already has a wife. She is called Elvira. He decides to “give” Elvira to Lindoro so that he will be free to find himself an Italian woman.
Lindoro doesn’t realize that Isabella has been travelling the world looking for him. Eventually she is shipwrecked in Algiers and brought to Mustafa’s palace.

It’s love at first sight for Mustafa when he meets Isabella. But Isabella feels differently. She is a confident and strong-willed woman who finds Mustafa quite silly.
Isabella is forced to think up schemes to out-manoeuvre Mustafa, and to teach him a couple of lessons about respecting women along the way.

Excercises and Discussion Topics for L’Italiana in Algeri.

Creative Exercises:

Singing and Writing
1. L’Italiana in Algeri is a love story. Isabelle is trying to get back together with Lindoro. Can you think of a good pop song that would help them get back together?
2. Working in small groups, can you write a song about the opera of L’Italiana in Algeri using the tune of the good pop songs that you just thought about.
3. Now, can each of the small groups perform this song.
4. Possiblity that cast member evaluates each song?

1. Another aspect of L’Italiana in Algeri is that Isabella is trying to outwit Mustafa. He has all the power but she has the brains. Can you think of any other stories where somebody uses their special skill to beat somebody bigger or more powerful?
2. In small groups, can you tell think of somebody in your lives who is more powerful than you? Where do they get their power from? Do they use it fairly?
3. In your groups can you think of a story or situation where their power might be beaten?
4. Write down or tell this story.

Social Justice Issues

1. Gender Issues in this opera
a) Do you think Mustafa is fair to women in this opera? (Teacher should see if there is a difference between boys and girls in these answers)
b) Do you think Mustafa was a bit weird about women because this opera was written over 200 years ago? Are there any rulers living today who have strange attitudes to women?

2. Issues of Power
Those who live in poverty have very tough lives compared to the wealthy of this world. The difference between rich and poor is sometimes called the poverty gap.

Can you think of any examples of big gaps between the rich and poor that you’ve seen first hand?


1. If you had to convince somebody that they had to treat women more fairly, what would you say?
2. What would say to help workers who are being treated poorly?