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Meet our young performers

Opera North’s current season features over 40 young singers and dancers across two productions: The Cunning Little Vixen and Tosca. We nipped behind the scenes to find out how a couple of the young people were finding the experience.

Hattie Cobb, 15, shares the part of the Shepherd Boy in Puccini’s Tosca with another young singer, Bella Blood. The role involves singing ‘lo de’ sospiri’ in Italian at the start of Act 3 – a lullaby which provides a much-needed moment of calm before the opera’s tragic denouement.

Hattie has been singing since the age of two and made her operatic debut with Opera North in 2019 when she was one of the children in La bohème.

“2019 was when I joined Opera North Young Voices and I’m now a member of the Youth Chorus. I love how friendly everyone is when I come in for rehearsal. I never feel I can’t talk to anybody, even the principal singers. They’re always really welcoming.”

Anna Maria rehearses the part of the squirrel in Leeds Grand Theatre

Young dancer Anna Maria Ilieva Bilioni who appears as a squirrel in The Cunning Little Vixen agrees:

“Everyone has been amazingly helpful with all aspects of the show. It’s definitely something I would consider doing again.”

At 23, Anna Maria is a little bit older than Hattie. She’s currently a student at the Northern School of Contemporary Dance which means she’s no stranger to the stage, but this is the first time she’s performed in an opera:

“I decided to audition for The Cunning Little Vixen because it looked like a fun experience that I could very quickly immerse myself into. The most memorable thing for me so far has been the variety of skills in one room – and seeing how everyone collaborates on everything.”

Bella Blood as the Shepherd Boy and Mykhailo Malafii as Cavaradossi © James Glossop

Hattie also loves being in a rehearsal studio surrounded by talented and inspirational people, but she admits that nothing can match the moment when you step out on stage:

“It’s the best feeling ever! You literally get this rush. No other feeling can compare especially when you know in your heart that this is what you want to do when you grow up.”

Both young people are passionate about the shows they appear in. For Hattie, that’s not only because of the ‘gorgeous music and arias’, but also because of the main character:

“Tosca is just amazing. She goes through so much in the opera and you can see how strong and resilient she is. I think it’s such a nice thing to see a woman being that strong and independent.”

The cast of The Cunning Little Vixen © Tristram Kenton

Anna Maria loves the way the stage in The Cunning Little Vixen teams with colourful characters. She believes it’s a fantastic choice for anyone looking for a great night out at the theatre:

“People should come and watch The Cunning Little Vixen because it’s a fun and thought-provoking experience for the whole family.”

For young people aged 8-19 who love to sing and act, auditions are being held for the Opera North Youth Company on 26 April. Successful applicants will be invited to join one of the Company’s youth ensembles which meet weekly during school term time to take part in an exciting programme of performances and projects with vocal and drama specialists providing training in singing and stagecraft.

Register an interest

Both Tosca and The Cunning Little Vixen are part of Opera North’s current season. Following their run in Leeds, the productions tour to Salford Quays, Nottingham, Newcastle and Hull.


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