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‘Useful’ can seem a loaded word when it is applied to the arts. Benjamin Britten, in the utilitarian years after the Second World War, felt that music should be of use to ‘ordinary people’, establishing an ethos that has permeated the work of opera companies around Britain ever since. ‘Usefulness’ led to ‘outreach’, ‘accessibility’, and now ‘engagement’. At its worst, this has created a culture of boxticking, with nebulous and sometimes patronising projects devised primarily to satisfy funding bodies. At its best, however, the urge to be useful has resulted in an extraordinary flowering of work aimed at schools, young people and communities on the fringes of society whose lives are enriched by an encounter with the world of creativity and self-expression.

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About Opera Now

British soprano Sophie Bevan discusses her starring role in a new opera at ENO; exploring the hidden art of the répétiteur; traditional craftsmanship meets contemporary design at Oman’s Royal Opera House Muscat; and Cardiff prepares to crown the Singer of the World. Plus, our pick of this year’s top singing competitions around the world; English Touring Opera proves that learning about opera can be educational and fun; American baritone and movie star Nelson Eddy; Simon Callow’s Wagnerian triumph; and Elisabeth Schwarzkopf’s legendary recordings.
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