Dubai Opera On Song for Nord Anglia Students

Access to dress rehearsals, masterclasses with visiting world class performers are all a part of a partnership that Nord Anglia has forged with Dubai Opera. The school group says it is keen to open up opportunities to other schools...
Dubai Opera On Song for Nord Anglia Students
By James Mullan
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There is an increasing focus by schools in Dubai on upping their game when it comes to the arts. Earlier this year ArtsEd, arguably the UK’s leading name in the education of students within musical theatre, announced that it was setting up in Dubai and that it had already secured partnerships with a number of schools here.

Nord Anglia School (NAS) Dubai has been very active in this area as well through the school group’s global collaboration with Juilliard, the top arts education college in the United States.  It has supported this locally with an exclusive partnership with Dubai Opera. caught up with Principal Matthew Farthing, Amira Fouad founder of the National Youth Orchestra in the UAE who is leading the programme with Dubai Opera and the drama team at Nord Anglia to find out more about this partnership.  

Where are we now with the Dubai Opera partnership? 

We are just entering the second year of our exclusive relationship with Dubai Opera.  During that time Nord Anglia students have participated in more than 40 events from attending dress rehearsals for major shows such as Ghost and Othello to participating in workshops and masterclasses with some of the top global talent who have been performing at the iconic venue.  

How does this partnership fit within the Juilliard collaboration? 

We see them as complementary.  The Juilliard collaboration is a global relationship which operates across all 63 Nord Anglia schools around the world.  Juilliard provides us with a curriculum and we have visits from their staff from the U.S as well as opportunities for students to attend courses on the Juilliard campus.  Having access to the world class talent and facilities at Dubai Opera, so close to us, allows our students a richer experience.  

An example of this is that ‘Sleeping Beauty’ is on the Juilliard curriculum for year 1 and students were able to attend the dress rehearsal for an actual production, rather than simply watching a recording, when a production appeared at Dubai Opera earlier this year.  

Is the relationship solely focused on the drama students? 

No, quite the contrary. We’ve sought to make it as inclusive as possible.  More than 900 out of 1,500 pupils currently at NAS have been involved in events with Dubai Opera over the past year.  Not everyone is going to be appearing on the West End or on Broadway but the benefits of participating in the arts and gaining an appreciation for them at an early stage are deep and long lasting.  

Our work experience programme which pupils take up at the end of year 10, for instance, also offers around 10-12 students per year the opportunity to spend a week at Dubai Opera working across all areas of the business from production, to marketing, to front and back of house through, booking and financial management.  The placement is extremely popular with students – in fact it’s heavily over subscribed – so students have to pitch internally to the year 10 teachers before being considered. We shortlist and the students then have to pitch to senior management at Dubai Opera before being offered a place on the programme. 

If you look at the patterns of future employment it’s clear from a multitude of studies that the creative industries in general as well as the entertainment and performing arts businesses in particular are growth areas. So there is, we strongly believe, a vocational element to what we’re doing here.  

And what are the benefits for the students who are focusing on drama? 

For students of the performing arts it’s vital for them to be able to go to the theatre, so having this world class facility here is absolutely invaluable. Some of the students have never been to the opera so it’s teaching the little things – for instance etiquette and that’s been really important. No popcorn and mobile phones for instance! Attending live performances really inspires the students to pursue performing arts. 

It is also important for the students and the parents to see that we as a school are really serious about the performing arts and for them to see that there are destinations that they can aim for.    

You’re also working with other schools on this programme too. Tell us a bit more about this? 

Yes from the outset we were very clear that we wanted to make the programme as inclusive as possible. So far through the Music in the Studio series of concerts and masterclasses we’ve been able to include students from many of the Taaleem schools, as well as from DESSC, JESS Arabian Ranches, North London Collegiate School, American School of Dubai, Brighton College, Kent College, American Community School of Abu Dhabi, Sharjah English School, GEMS Winchester School. Dubai College, Dubai American Academy, King’s School Al Barsha, Dwight School and Al Bateen Academy have all participated on the programme as well. 

When we have masterclasses we sometimes have up to 250 students attending from schools around the UAE. We are actively reaching out and sharing with the community because that’s what the arts is all about.

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