Leading young British composer James Olsen has joined forces with three inspirational animal charities – Born Free, The Donkey Sanctuary and LionAid – to present the second instalment of his children’s #lionopera initiative – ‘One of Our Lions is Missing!’
#lionopera follows the comic adventures of a lion and a donkey living in a monastery and is based on the medieval legend of Saint Jerome. ‘One of our Lions is Missing!’ follows on from the successful first instalment ‘One of our Brothers is a Lion!’, performed in 2017.
With budgets for arts subjects increasingly squeezed, primary schools up and down the country can sign-up free of charge to stage their own production this summer. A range of digital support resources will be provided by Olsen Verlag publishers and supported by the partner charities, which means that #lionopera can be performed by schools with little or no musical capability.
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. It also delivers a wider message, encouraging children to explore the global issues faced by wild and domestic animals, and the opportunity for fundraising activity.
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. 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 which lions and donkeys face today, and inspire young people to take an interest in conservation.”
Much-loved actress and co-founder of the Born Free Foundation, Virginia McKenna OBE 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.”
Carl Wholey, National Schools Education Manager at The Donkey Sanctuary said: “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.”
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.”