Cooper Hall - Classical Music Venue
Opera at Cooper Hall
The development of opera at Cooper Hall was born out of our educational programme and workshops for emerging artists, Cooper Hall Emerging Artists Opera Workshop (CHEAOW). Our very first presentation was a selection of Opera Scenes as a result of a weekend workshop facilitated by our Creative Director, Morag McLaren in 2011.  Following the success of this seminal venture, we were fortunate to be approached by Bath Philharmonia, and as a result have collaboratively produced 2 in house operas with young professional singers.  We are currently working on another production for 2015 Frome Festival - full details will be posted early next year.

Coming from a both a performance and educational background, Morag approaches her role as Director very much from the singer's perspective: “Through my educational focus, and workshops on the creative process and integration, I combine exploring improvisation, playfulness, ensemble dynamics and physicality as tools for learning and performing an operatic role.”

Singers are invited to stay at Cooper Hall, which is based in the grounds of Selwood Manor, Frome, Somerset. Our “Creative Haven” offers peace, tranquility and seclusion within an inspiring woodland setting and allows performers to work intensively on the production, combining rehearsal time with workshops and holistic support from other “singing friendly” practitioners.

Living and working together in relaxed surroundings, the work on every production is focused and intensive. This allows the company to develop a unique bond, which naturally creates an exciting and supportive dynamic, ultimately reflected in the final production. Our vision is to provide opportunities for emerging artists in the early stages of their professional careers - to hone their performance skills and enable their personal development. In so doing, we hope to instil confidence and experience they can apply to future opportunities.

Opera Gallery
Cosi Fan Tutte
  Cosi Fan Tutte
  Mozart's much loved comic masterpiece, Cosi fan Tutte was experienced in a beautiful, intimate setting in the grounds of Selwood Manor. Encompassing sublime music, love, lust, desire and deception, the opera played out in a modern setting, blurring the lines between reality and fantasy.
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The Turn of the Screw
  'The Turn of the Screw'
  In 2012 as part of Britten's Centenary we presented two performances of Turn of the Screw during the Frome Festival.

Morag felt Selwood Manor offered the ideal backdrop to stage a small scale production of The Turn of the Screw and would be the perfect opera with which to launch The Cooper Hall Emerging Artists Opera Workshop and make her debut as a director.

  View Programme PDF
The Turn of the Screw
  Hansel & Gretel

In 2013, Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel was performed twice during the Frome Festival, at Fishguard International Music Festival, and later in July, again at Cooper Hall.

We also extend opportunities into the local community for young people to get involved on the Stage Management side of our operas. In 2014 we offered a small bursary to support the studies of Aaron Veness who has just started a 3 year BA (Hons) course in Stage Management at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. Aaron spent a month working with us during the summer of 2013 and was Stage Manager for our production of Hansel and Gretel.

We have been fortunate to receive huge support for our first productions from an enormous amount of people. We owe a debt of thanks to John Shirley Quirke (1931-2014) who gave our cast invaluable insight to Britten's Turn of the Screw and led a wonderful group workshop refining their text and working with them one to one. As a direct source to the work of Britten his knowledge, dry good humour and generosity of spirit was an absolute gift. In spite of failing health he presented a positively vigorous and life affirming masterclass here as part of Frome Festival that year.  He was due to return again in the summer of 2014, but sadly passed away that spring.

Also, thanks to Ash Khandakhar, Editor of Opera Now, who kindly wrote our programme notes for Hansel and Gretel and gave a free talk about the opera. He has been hugely enthusiastic and encouraging about us bringing opera to this rural corner of Somerset and introducing it to Frome Festival.

“Selwood, Land of Dreams!” quote from the cast of Turn of the Screw.


Opera Talks

The second of our CooperHall Talks is with Welsh National Opera's General Director Aidan Lang and Ash Khandekar, Editor of Opera Now Magazine.

Opera Club

Warm, friendly, open and accessible are qualities core to our ethos as an organisation, combined with our commitment to demystify and break down the perceived elitism of the world of opera. We often try to co-ordinate the theme of our CHOC events into whatever is being performed at the Royal Opera House, Welsh National or Glyndebourne Touring Opera each season so CHOC members can gain a more thorough understanding of a piece before seeing a production. A benefit of being a member of CHOC is a reduced ticket price to live screenings at The Merlin Theatre.

CHOC is open to all, for newcomers and buffs alike. With the support of Ash Khandekar, Editor of Opera Now Magazine; a range of industry professionals to draw from; the insightful and generous musical knowledge of our resident pianist, David Price and of course Morag's professional knowledge, energy and enthusiasm for facilitating performance development work, we think we've come up with a rather winning formula!

As a result of CHOC, performance opportunities have arisen for young, professional singers who benefit from coaching sessions in London with Morag before performing at our events. Stronger links are developing as our collaboration with Iford Arts and their New Generation programme grows. We have also developed a bursary award as part of our education programme which has also been tied into the CHOC events.

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