Back to RWCMD main site

RWCMD Schools Opera: Creative Collaboration

10 April 2021

Filed Under:

Design for Performance
Stage Management

Last term, as part of their learning and participation programme, RWCMD students brought an opera world premiere to Cardiff’s school children.

300 children from five primary schools across Cardiff were able to watch and engage with RWCMD students’ production of Cat and Dog a brand new opera written by Composition student Ethnie Foulkes.

Vocal students collaborated with Design for Performance and Stage Management students to produce and perform this specially created virtual opera performance.

They also created an interactive online workshop introducing the children to the main elements of an opera, from singing through to set design, and explained how the film of Cat and Dog was created during lockdown.



“Thank you so much for involving us in all the workshops this term, the children really enjoyed them and learnt a lot.”

Philip Butler, Trerobart Primary School


Creating the Opera

The Vocal students learnt and rehearsed the opera through online and socially distanced in-person sessions. Working with design and stage management students they put it all together and recorded it as a full production for the children to watch after their workshops.



‘I’ve always had a love for words and vocal music, and it’s been the main focus of my compositional works for some time,’ explained second year Composition student Ethnie Foulkes who created the opera.

‘The cast threw themselves into the score whole heartedly and made the rehearsal, editing, and filming of the score and show a truly enjoyable and creative experience.’

‘It means a lot to me to have been able to assist in expanding the musical provision in schools, especially this year with all the changes to learning.

I hope to continue writing operas as my career progresses further and I’m currently working on a new opera, which will be partially performed later this year under the Tŷ Cerdd Composers Opera Scheme.’


Essential Training Experiences

The Schools Opera project is an integral part of the students’ training as professional musicians. Working on learning and participation programmes like this not only offers them an opportunity to take creative, exciting performances and workshops to schools around Wales, but also develops their performance, presentation and organisational skills.


Some of the cast in the filming space created in the Anthony Hopkins Centre courtyard.


‘Recording Cat and Dog was an amazing experience,’ said Vocal student Nicole Dickie. ‘It’s equipped me with skills that will be very useful, not only in the near future but also in the post-Covid performing industry.

We also got to teach a workshop with some of the children that viewed the opera. It was surreal seeing our audience weeks after performing it! The project was great fun and I loved every minute of it.’


New Challenges

As if providing an opera for 300 children wasn’t enough, of course these Vocal students of 2021 also had to deal with the inevitable changes that lockdown has brought. Their new challenge was to deliver the project in a virtual setting as they couldn’t work with the children in person. And so as well as having to learn the music and perform all the parts, they worked with the Design for Performance students who created the set and costumes, and with the Stage Management students who created the film to show the school children.


Cat and Dog follows the story of two pets who find themselves on a big adventure in the woods during a dream, encountering lots of wild animals on the way, who teach them new things and help them see different perspectives.


‘In making Cat and Dog all the students worked as an ensemble,’ said Jem Treays, Director and Librettist. ‘They did an amazing job; lip syncing the music (because of Covid regulations), as well as braving long film shoots on cold nights with 50 mph winds in a marquee! They really pulled together and supported each other and experienced making their first ever film.’


Introducing Opera to School Children

Opera can sometimes seem a challenging art form and RWCMD’s long-running Schools Opera project provides music-making workshops and performances to local young people, introducing them to opera in an accessible way through engaging content.



The full film of Cat and Dog is available on our RWCMD YouTube channel:


Photos taken by members of the cast.

Set and Costume design by Constance Canavarro and Ruby Brown.

Schools Opera is just one part of the extensive programme of outreach that the College provides for over 10,000 children and young people each year. Schools Opera 2021 was generously supported by Western Power Distribution, Arts & Business Cymru, Unite Students and the Darkley Trust.

Find out more about studying at the David Seligman Opera School.


Related Stories

‘On the Move:’ Taking Brass Out On the Road

Celebrating An Awfully Big Orchestradventure!