To mark Dementia Action Week which runs from 20-26 May, Opera North, one of the city’s largest arts organisations, has announced plans to stage England’s first dementia friendly opera performance this Autumn. Specialist dementia training will also be offered to every member of staff, raising awareness of the condition across the company.

La bohème, Puccini’s popular tale of love and loss among young Bohemians in Paris, has been chosen for the matinee performance which will be held at Leeds Grand Theatre on Thursday 24 October. 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, increased signage to help people navigate their way around a potentially unfamiliar setting, and plenty of staff to ensure everyone feels at ease.

Before the performance, the La bohème cast and all Opera North staff will be given Dementia Friends training to gain a greater understanding of what it is like to live with dementia, the effect it may have on someone and how best to make them feel valued and supported. The company will also be working closely with Peer Support Service (Adult Social Care), a Leeds-based dementia charity and member of Opera North’s community engagement Encore Scheme, to ensure the performance is fully meeting the needs of those with dementia as well as their families and carers. https://www.operanorth.co.uk/access/dementia-friendly-performances/

Reflecting its decision to place dementia awareness at the heart of the company, Opera North has also joined the Dementia Friendly Leeds campaign, a partnership between Leeds Older People’s Forum, Alzheimer’s Society and Leeds City Council which assists any organisation, business or individual who wants to work towards becoming dementia friendly, raising awareness and making their services more accessible.

To engage people who might struggle to access live performance or who feel more comfortable in a setting they recognise, the Community Partnerships team will also be taking music away from the stage and into community venues, including care homes in the region. Soprano Bibi Heal, accompanied by accordionist Miloš Milivojević, will sing excerpts from La bohème alongside a selection of other French-style songs. In addition, three dementia settings will be working with singer-songwriter Joanna Eden on a special pilot project based around La bohème and featuring a pop-up Parisian café.



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