Controversial opera is hailed a huge hit

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A COMMUNITY opera which sparked national controversy finally went ahead in Bridlington – and proved a huge hit with audiences.

Beached was the conclusion of two-years of work between Opera North, local residents and Bay Primary School – and the triumphant show at Bridlington Spa last Saturday proved a fitting end for all involved.

A fortnight ago the production was overshadowed by controversy when it was initially cancelled the week before it was due to take to the stage.

Its writer, Billy Elliot screenwriter Lee Hall, accused Opera North and the school of homophobia after he was asked to change some of the language in the opera involving a gay character and mentioning the word ‘queer‘.

The dispute – which was resolved last week with a minor re-write – made national headlines and there were fears campaigners could disrupt Saturday’s shows.

But both performances ran smoothly, with 228 tickets sold for the matinee and 390 for the evening.

Bay Primary headteacher Emma Hobbs said: “It went fantastically well, it was a great success. “It was a really long day for the children but they did incredibly well and the fact that they were so well rehearsed kept them going through both the afternoon and evening shows.”

Mrs Hobbs said that the school would continue the work of Opera North which saw the children stage their own shows and learn more about the value of singing and performing.

“The opera had been a very small part of the work we have done with them over the last two years, a lot of it has been about building our singing exposure in the school and the legacy Opera North has left us with will definitely continue,” she said.

Beached, written by composer Harvey Brough to a text by Lee Hall, starred a cast made up of several local community groups as well as four professional opera singers who played central characters. And despite the controversy which was reported on nationally, Richard Mantle, general director of Opera North said: “Harvey Brough and Lee Hall are incredible writers and Opera North was delighted to be able to engage artists with such high profiles and credibility for our community project – this is something to celebrate.

“We commissioned a new piece of work with the knowledge that it would be bold and exciting and in the current economic climate where works like this are few and far between, we took a brave step to nurture and broaden the artistic landscape of this community and the talent within it.

“The last two years are a fantastic achievement – we have worked with over 2,700 individuals looking at how singing can be used to address important local issues, such as regeneration.

“Beached has been a wonderful opportunity for many of those people to come together and celebrate their town and what they have done together.

“We hope that firm foundations have now been laid for Bridlington to continue its singing journey.”

Opera North’s Sing Up Bridlington project has involved a total of 2,700 local residents who took part in workshops, concerts and choirs.