VIDEO. “Mission Opéra”, a new project at the Tony-Garnier professional high school in Bron

Focus on the “Opera Mission” at the Tony-Garnier vocational high school in Bron, specializing in building trades. For the past month, CAP students have been vocalizing and rehearsing under the direction of an opera singer from the Opéra de Lyon. An introduction to bel canto and a difficult repertoire. At stake: a concert.

In one of the workshops of the Tony Garnier Vocational High School in Bron, painting lessons have had a somewhat special focus since the beginning of January. For four weeks now, CAP students have been learning music. But not just any music. Opera! Mozart, Wagner or even Gounod… Lyrical singing fills their ears, they paint, cut, measure or sand. Impassive despite the soundscape.

In the boxes, everyone is busy, sometimes humming. The students are not used to this music as the young Zidane explains, behind his workbench. “Opera is not our favorite style of music but we are getting into it as we go along”. “Working in music, it feels good, you feel at ease”, exclaims Fawas, who remains focused on chopsticks to put down. He admits it, he sometimes sings while working.

These opera arias broadcast in the workshop, the students know them by heart. It must be said that they have been repeating them since the beginning of January as part of Operation “Mission Opera”. Three opera excerpts and a gospel song in English. Soprano Caroline MacPhie leads the rehearsals, accompanied by a pianist. The choir director of the choir of the Lyon Opera has chosen an affordable repertoire with male voices.

On the piano, the cadence evokes a military march. If this song taken from Gounod’s Faust gives them a bit of a hard time, Caroline MacPhie does not hesitate to galvanize the young tenors of the first row “Come on! You are soldiers, soldiers… be proud!” And all resume in rhythm: “Immortal glory of our ancestors… direct our steps, direct our steps… inflame our hearts!”

video length: 01min 21

Opera mission in high school: excerpt from Gounod’s Faust sung by CAP students in building trades. (1/23/23)

©France tv

Some of these teenagers, like Oumar, did not think they would succeed so quickly. “When we started singing, I didn’t think I was going to sing in English! It’s the first time I’ve listened to opera and also participated. I really liked it. It’s difficult but when you follow the course with courage and will, you can get out of it”, he assures all smiles.

Same voluntary speech for Serge: “Before I didn’t think I could speak or sing in public, now I know it was something that was hidden inside me and that I brought out. At first it wasn’t easy… but we achieved our goal thanks to our teachers and I am delighted”. Serge is part of the small group of tenors. Regarding the quality of his vocal performance, Serge prefers to rely on the public, in all modesty.

Singing lessons take place twice a week, on Tuesday and Thursday. The hour-and-a-half session invariably begins with small team building exercises. Because these vocal workshops are also intended to unite the small group.

This musical project consists in opening up to this public a repertoire that can be perceived as elitist. But not only. For Caroline MacPhie, the virtues of singing are priceless. “By working on singing, we work on self-confidence, posture, teamwork, autonomy, perseverance”, she explains.

We work on several skills that are essential for life. It is a life lesson through lyrical singing (…). It is a unique experience for these young people.

Working with these young beginners, devoid of practice and culture of lyrical singing, could seem abrupt to the first comer. For the choir director, their inexperience is not an obstacle. On the contrary, it is an audience without prejudice. “They are launching, they are open”, ensures the professional. On the other hand, “They must be ready to work and must also dare to make mistakes. For me, it is a very human and very rich project”, she summarizes.

To make pupils who are not used to singing sing, on a repertoire to which they are not accustomed, for the teaching team, it is “a huge challenge” and an “exceptional project”, like the explains Laurence Lannic, librarian professor. She is also the culture referent within the establishment and led the project.

Mission Opéra already benefits young people in more ways than one: “for the class, it’s group cohesion. It creates a bond between students, and between students and adults. It’s an opening to a universe that we would not spontaneously explore (..) We are well aware that our students would not necessarily go to opera, it is a universe that is not easy to access, both culturally and financially.

We are quite numerous to be mobilized around this project. The positive point for the establishment is also a team “cohesion”.

Laurence Lannic

librarian teacher, culture referent

Another benefit: the strengthening of cohesion within the teaching team. When the proposal to introduce lyrical art and bel canto to the students of the establishment was born in this school of construction trades, the idea seduced. Six classes came forward but only one was selected: the one that simply had no educational project. It was not a question of distinguishing the most deserving students, according to the headmaster, Kamal Youssefi.

After the concert, the opera mission will follow its course: the students will visit the Lyon Opera and then attend a performance. This project was financed by the DAAC, the Rhône-Alpes region and a construction company. Ultimate objective for these young singers: to give a concert in public in a room of a hundred people. The performance will take place on Thursday January 26 in the Jack Jack room in Bron.


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