Victoria Leeds, which comprises the retail destinations Victoria Quarter and Victoria Gate, has become Opera North’s first Access Ambassador, enabling more people in Leeds to engage with opera and live performance.
The partnership will see Victoria Leeds supporting Opera North’s dementia friendly performance of La bohème which is being held on Thursday 24 October at Leeds Grand Theatre. This will be the first time a professional opera company in England has staged an opera performance specifically for those living with dementia, together with their families and carers. It builds on research which has shown the many benefits music can have, including improvements in alertness and concentration, increased confidence and social connection, and an enhanced feeling of wellbeing.
Jo Coburn, General Manager at Victoria Leeds, said:
“Victoria Leeds is passionate about making a positive impact in the community and we’re delighted to be Opera North’s first Access Ambassador. We’re proud to support such a unique event that will allow those living with dementia to fully immerse themselves in a stunning performance of La bohème that is perfectly tailored to them, enhancing the experience for everyone.”
The opera will be performed in full and will feature reduced lighting and noise contrast, low level lighting in the auditorium and a relaxed approach to audience members coming and going during the show. There will be a quiet room set aside for those who need it and increased signage to help people navigate their way around a potentially unfamiliar setting.
Peer Support Service, a Leeds-based dementia charity and member of Opera North’s community engagement Encore Scheme, experiencing Opera North © Justin Slee
Before the performance, Opera North staff and the La bohème cast will be invited to become Dementia Friends by attending The Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Friends information sessions to gain a greater understanding of what it is like to live with dementia. A number of these staff will assist on the day of the performance, working alongside Leeds Grand Theatre front of house.
A taster performance with a soprano and an accordion player will also tour to community venues across the city, introducing audiences to the music of La bohème alongside a selection of Parisian café songs. A special performance of this show will take place in Victoria Leeds on 12 November as part of Purple Tuesday which seeks to improve the customer experience for disabled people. Further access choices include audio described, captioned and sign interpreted performances in Leeds and on tour.