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Celebrating our young performers

Joining one of Opera North’s Youth Ensembles is a great way for a young person to hone their singing or instrumental skills – and it also gives them the chance to experience the thrill of appearing alongside professional artists on some impressive stages across the region.

The Opera North Youth Chorus (ONYC) and Youth Orchestra (ONYO) performed their most recent show, The Runaway Royal, at Leeds Grand Theatre – their largest venue to date. With auditions soon to be held for young people looking to join the groups, we were keen to find out what they thought.

The Opera North Youth Chorus on stage at Leeds Grand Theatre with Opera North Youth Orchestra in the pit © Tom Arber

Directed by Anna Pool, The Runaway Royal is adapted from Emmanuel Chabrier’s The Reluctant King (Le Roi malgré lui) – a witty yet thought-provoking look at power, whether wielded by individuals or the populace. As Youth Chorus Master Nicholas Shaw says:

“Chabrier’s opera is a fantastic piece, a hidden gem, which has something to say about the world we live in today.”

Conductor Oliver Rundell adds:

“It was a chance to present a fantastic piece that the audience probably had never heard of and to give young people the opportunity to perform on stage and in the pit at Leeds Grand Theatre.”

The ONYC perform The Runaway Royal at Leeds Grand Theatre © Tom Arber

For many members of the Youth Chorus, treading the boards at Leeds Grand Theatre was a dream come true:

“It’s been an incredible experience as it’s the first time I’ve been on the mainstage at the Grand and I felt so passionate about the project, being part of the choir and the wider team in the theatre.” – Sophia, ONYC member

For the Youth Orchestra, it was an opportunity to sit where the Orchestra of Opera North usually plays and to experience how it feels to be part of a professional orchestra in the pit while the action takes place on stage:

“It was great to have acting on stage while we were in the pit. It was such a good experience and quite unique to Opera North.” – Michael, ONYO member

When the curtain came down at the end of the show, the young people were still buzzing:

“It’s been adventurous! It’s been hard and we’ve worked harder than ever to get to where we are now. The venue is insane, it was so scary but so thrilling!” – Akele, ONYC member

“I don’t think anyone can comprehend how significant it is to be performing on the mainstage at such a young age. It’s an incredible experience and something I hope to do again.” – Marcus, ONYC member

“This was amazing. Thank you so much for this opportunity.” – Will, ONYO member

Cameron Mitchell as Nangis with members of the ONYC © Tom Arber

The ONYC is for keen singers aged 16 to 21 years. For Lucy and Lena, this was their last show after joining the Opera North Youth Company over 10 years ago:

“It’s mine and Lena’s last show after 10 years in the choirs and we’ve made so many memories here.  We’ve had so many amazing experiences and been to so many different and brilliant places. It’s been so good for confidence-building, everyone is so supportive of each other. No one is judged”. – Lucy

“It’s the thing I’ve stuck with for the longest in my life and it has been so worth it. I’ve made amazing friends – you don’t get this environment in many other places. It was scary going on to the stage at the Grand but so great to have our last performance on the mainstage.” – Lena

The ONYO playing in the pit at Leeds Grand Theatre © Tom Arber

The Opera North Youth Company offers vocal and drama training for 8 to 21-year-olds. The members meet weekly during term time at the Howard Opera Centre in central Leeds to learn skills in singing and stagecraft with the help of Youth Chorus Master Nicholas Shaw and the wider Learning and Engagement team.

Open to 6th Form and undergraduate students studying Grade 8+ on their instrument, the Opera North Youth Orchestra brings together career-minded instrumentalists with a view to helping them transition from further or higher education into the professional world of music. Anyone interested in auditioning should apply by Friday 5 April 2024. Auditions will be held in Leeds on Sunday 21 April 2024.

Opera North Youth Company


Howard Opera Centre Leeds

Register an interest

Opera North Youth Orchestra


Howard Opera Centre Leeds

Apply to audition


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