The Donkey Sanctuary has joined forces with the Born Free Foundation, LionAid and Olsen Verlag publishers in supporting #lionopera, by the leading young British composer, James Olsen. #lionopera is an ambitious new cycle of children’s operas, providing an opportunity for primary schools to take part in the first performances of ‘One of Our Lions is Missing!’ by staging their own production, free of charge in the summer of 2018.
The operas narrate the comic adventures of a lion and a donkey living in a monastery and are freely based on the medieval legend of Saint Jerome. The project offers cross-curricular learning opportunities by providing schools with tie-in educational materials for Key Stage 2 science as well as the means to fulfil National Curriculum requirements in English, music and religious education.
The production delivers a wider message, raising awareness about the global issues and threats faced by donkeys and lions. At the same time it gives young people the chance to explore new skills and develop their existing learning by performing a new high-quality and entertaining musical work. Olsen Verlag will provide a range of digital materials so that the operas can be performed by schools with little or no musical capability.
Carl Wholey, national schools education manager at The Donkey Sanctuary says: “To be involved in #lionopera gives us a chance to create awareness and empathy for animals in a fun and engaging way. The importance of young people understanding the ongoing needs of animals cannot be overstated, these are the policy makers and animal carers of the future. With the donkey in the opera being the ‘clever one’, this is another step to breaking down stereotypes and helping elevate the perceived status of donkeys.
The education pack will not only cover sections of the science National Curriculum, but also provide an opportunity for children to explore their views on animals and the global issues that threaten them.”
Virginia McKenna OBE and Will Travers OBE, co-founders of the Born Free Foundation, said: “Born Free’s heritage with lions goes back over 50 years to the making of the film Born Free and it is vital that our message of Compassionate Conservation is brought to each new generation. James’s genius has created ‘#lionopera’, an exciting, powerful and engaging musical opportunity.
"It will give young minds the chance to express themselves in a way that brings them closer to a deeper understanding of and appreciation for both domestic and wild animals. They say that children are the future and by encouraging young hearts and minds to care we are helping ensure that the future is in good hands.”
Christine Macsween and Dr Pieter Kat, LionAid directors said: “LionAid is very pleased to support this wonderful initiative by James Olsen to engage primary school children in an opera that is not only highly enjoyable for the schools and the children taking part but also is delivering an important conservation and animal welfare message.
"We are thrilled to be providing our expertise on African lion conservation issues because the lion in the monastery now has fewer and fewer wild relatives left and it gives the opportunity to highlight the wonder of this iconic animal through this delightful opera.”
James Olsen, composer and founder of Olsen Verlag said: “It’s an immense pleasure for me to invite schools to participate in the second stage of the #lionopera project. With arts education coming under increasing pressure today, we need to find imaginative new ways of giving youngsters high-quality musical and theatrical experiences, which is why I’m so delighted that we can offer this opportunity to schools free of charge.
"I’m also thrilled to be working with our three partner charities: operas tend only to benefit humans, so it would be an honour if my work can help raise awareness of the threats that lions and donkeys face today, and inspire young people to take an interest in conservation.”
Recognising the pressures put on education budgets, schools are invited to participate in the first performances of the second #lionopera, ‘One of Our Lions is Missing!’ free of charge, but are encouraged to raise funds to support The Donkey Sanctuary, Born Free, LionAid and the project itself.