W11 Children’s Opera was founded in 1971 by local Holland Park parents led by Serena Hughes (Founder’s letter), a music teacher, and the conductor Nicholas Kraemer (Recollections). They wanted to stage an opera for young people each December with a large cast of children and young people. Their vision created a unique organisation which commissions new works from both young and established composers and utilises a professional production team and involves only young voices.
Open auditions attract a cast drawn from over 35 schools (both private and state), in West London and beyond. W11 Opera aims to identify and encourage students enthusiastic about singing from local schools, and offers bursaries when needed to enable them to participate in the production. Over two thousand teenagers and children have been involved in productions to date. Notable alumni include:
- Eve (Emily) Best and Sophie Ellis-Bextor, now W11 Opera Patrons
- Saskia Wickham, Annabel Arden, Jemima Rooper, Clemency Burton-Hill and Blanche McIntyre
- More recent W11 Opera cast members Celine Buckens (Emilie in Stephen Spielberg’s War Horse) and Jonathan Antoine (Runner-Up in Britain’s Got Talent 2012).
Please visit our Alumni page for more information..
In 2001, W11 Opera was invited to perform at the Linbury Studio Theatre, Royal Opera House. Although rehearsals still take place in W11 Opera’s “home” at St. James’ Norlands Church, since 2003 the main performances have been in a professional venue:
- 2003-2007 : Britten Theatre at the Royal College of Music
- 2008-2012 : Riverside Studios in Hammersmith
- 2013-present: POSK Theatre in Hammersmith
In recent years W11 Opera has developed a community programme offering workshops in State schools and libraries as well as Community Performances for the elderly and school children.
In addition to the information on our website all W11 Opera recordings, scores and other archive material, have been deposited in the RBK&C Kensington Central Library. The archive is available for consultation through the Local Studies and Archives department.