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World’s first opera for dementia sufferers?

August 31, 2016 by norman lebrecht

18 comments.


Scottish Opera have announced an abridged performance of Marriage of Figaro, designed for people with dementia.

We’re teaming up with Festival and King’s Theatres, Edinburgh to present the UK’s first Dementia Friendly opera performance at the Festival Theatre on Saturday 12 November.

Noble idea. Will it work?

dementia marriage of figaro


Comments (18)

  1. David Osborne says:

    Confusing as the plot is, that opera is one of the great miracles of civilization. Yes it will work.

    1. David Osborne says:

      Civilisation. I’ve been somehow Americanised. But thanks for the suggestion. Listening to the Erich Kleiber now.

      1. John Borstlap says:

        Be careful…. dementia begins with little slips of speling.

        1. David Osborne says:

          You’re a funny man John Borstlap…

  2. Wiebke Göetjes says:

    Dementia Friendly? How?
    I once played in an opera about Alzheimer, but how does one make an opera dementia friendly?

    1. Theodore McGuiver says:

      Have it rewritten by a contemporary atonal composer.

      1. David Osborne says:

        Ouch Theodore, ouch. Dangerous words!

        1. Pauline Lerner says:

          Bravo!

      2. Una says:

        That’s cruel, Theodore …

    2. MWnyc says:

      Basically, it means you encourage people with dementia to attend and don’t yell at them when they act like people with dementia during the music.

    3. Cyril Blair says:

      Simplify the plot and reduce the number of characters. The same idea can work with novels. Additionally, if they are already familiar with the music, they can engage with the opera that way. Usually music appreciation is one of the last things that goes from the mind.

      1. Theodore McGuiver says:

        How about La Serva Padrona, then?

  3. John Borstlap says:

    I was going to say something outrageous, but my PA strongly advised against it.

    But all jokes aside: classical music of the type of Mozart is, should be, therapeutic, because it penetrates into layers of the psyche deeper than the surface of consciousness, and may ‘repair’ damaged neuron connections. Its metaphor of flowing, vivid life energy, using relationships of the harmonic series with the greatest virtuosity and accessibility, may have an unexpected impact.

  4. Keith Paterson says:

    The same theatre has run relaxed performances of some shows for people with special needs, autism and similar conditions. For those the auditorium lights are not dimmed as much as usual and very loud noises are toned done. So, it is more to do with the environment the performance takes place in rather than major changes to the work (though in this case it will be shorter).
    It’s a fine idea – there must be many carers of dementia suffering music lovers, who would not take them to a regular performance for fear of disturbing other audience members.

    1. Una says:

      Yes, I’m off to see my former singing teacher, Josephine Veasey, tomorrow who is in a nursing home with dementia. I’m hoping she will know me after a year of not seeing me, and having done the 250 mile journey from Yorkshire to.the middle of Hampshire. Great, great problem that’s increasing. Well done, Scottish Opera – a brave but very welcomed move.

      1. David Osborne says:

        +1 Una.

  5. David Osborne says:

    My Dad’s in the early stages of dementia at the moment. Last year Mum took him to the screening of the (I think) Convent Garden Parsifal. That’s funny in itself because before he became ill, Wagner is someone we always had robust discussions about. On this occasion he did alright. Apparently fell asleep just before the kiss but not to worry. ‘Amfortas! Die Wunde!’ got that sorted!

    1. John Borstlap says:

      Exposing a patient to a Wagner performance might incur some risks:

      https://www.theguardian.com/music/2013/may/22/wagner-bad-for-your-mental-health


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