Opera North's dementia-friendly 'first' for Leeds

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Anush Hovhannisyan as Musetta with the cast of La bohèmeImage source, Richard H. Smith
Image caption,
The cast, crew and staff of the opera underwent specialist training for the performance

A dementia-friendly opera performance has taken place after the cast, crew and staff received specialist training.

Opera North said its matinee performance of Puccini's La Bohème at Leeds Grand Theatre was the first of its kind in England.

It was performed in full with reduced lighting and noise and with low-level light in the auditorium.

The theatre also adopted "a relaxed approach" to audience members moving around during the show.

La Bohème was chosen for the special performance as it is comparatively short and contains sections that the audience might recognise, said Opera North.

The production is set in the 1960s and so may have a resonance with some in the audience, it added.

Image source, Ant Robling
Image caption,
Opera North said research shows the "hugely beneficial effect" of music

The company also worked worked closely with Peer Support Service, a Leeds-based dementia charity, to make sure it met the needs of the audience.

The performance included an introduction to the opera from the stage and a recap after the interval.

Other changes included covering some of the mirrors in the toilets, a longer interval, additional staff on duty and a quiet room for opera-goers who needed a break.

Alice Gilmour of Opera North said: "Research continues to show the hugely beneficial effect music can have on those affected by dementia, tapping into memories and encouraging a response even when verbal abilities have been lost."

Image source, Richard H. Smith
Image caption,
La Bohème premiered in Italy in 1896 but Phyllida Lloyd's production is set in the 1960s

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