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Blackheath Halls Community Opera shortlisted for International Opera Award 2020

Fri 7 February 2020

Founded in 2012, the International Opera Awards is an annual celebration of excellence in opera around the world.

This year Blackheath Halls Community Opera has been shortlisted for the Education and Outreach Award, celebrating the outstanding work the company does to engage local people of all ages and backgrounds in the art form.

Run annually since 2007, the Blackheath Halls Community Opera continues to have a successful programme of ambitious and creative opera projects offering people from across the London Boroughs of Greenwich, Lewisham and beyond a unique opportunity to take part in high-quality, live music making alongside a professional cast of soloists and production teams.

This project is supported by a range of trusts and foundations including The Hearn Foundation, Arts Council England, and a number of generous individuals. Its patrons are celebrated English conductor Edward Gardner OBE and leading Scottish tenor Nicky Spence.

In summer 2019 Blackheath Halls Opera presented La belle Hélène marking the 200th anniversary of Jacques Offenbach’s birth, a production described by The Observer as “heart-warming” and “outstanding”.

Directed by James Hurley this was the first production to be performed on the newly levelled stage after the £3m redevelopment of the Great Hall last year, with the audience on raked seating.

The production starred a community chorus and orchestra led by Musical Director Christopher Stark, two youth choruses made up of children from 30 Lewisham and Greenwich schools, participants from two local special schools and a cast of professional soloists and Trinity Laban vocal students.

With support from National Lottery Project Grants, Blackheath Halls Community Opera was able to focus on developing diverse youth opera companies by working with the refugee charity Fairbeats!, running taster sessions in local schools, encouraging children to apply for the company, and supporting their attendance at rehearsals.

58 children – 40% of whom are BAME – took part in the company, alongside nine young people from special schools Charlton Park Academy and Greenvale School. The company also included talented singers from the Royal Greenwich and Blackheath Halls Youth Choir, whose founding patron is British Bass Matthew Rose.

Blackheath Halls Community Opera has been shortlisted for the prestigious award alongside eminent international companies including Opera North, La Fenice in Italy and Theater an der Wien in Austria.

Rose Ballantyne, Community Engagement Manager at Blackheath Halls says –

“Our community opera has grown in both scale and ambition over the last 13 years.  We never cease to be amazed and inspired by the commitment and enthusiasm of the teams involved, which bring together casts of local amateur musicians working alongside professionals and students.”

Gemma Okell, Director of Blackheath Halls comments –

“The community opera production at Blackheath Halls is always a highlight of our season. We are so proud that the work of such a large group of dedicated and talented individuals has been recognised with this nomination. We are already looking forward to this year’s autumn production of Verdi’s Macbeth.”

Judging of the International Opera Awards is carried out by a jury of industry professionals headed by Opera editor John Allison. Winners will be announced at the 2020 International Opera Awards on Monday 4th May at Sadler’s Wells.

Blackheath Halls Opera 2020 production will run from 29 September to 4 October.

For more information, please contact Rose Ballantyne on

Image credit Lidia Crisafulli