The European Opera Centre was launched in 1997 after extensive consultation in particular with European institutions, which provided consistent support for some twenty years. The main aims of the Centre were to assist Europeans to make the transition from education to the opera profession, and to develop audiences for opera. Originally, the Centre was based in Manchester but moved to Liverpool in 2004. This city is among the areas with the largest proportions of deprived neighbourhoods, according to UK statistics. The Centre contributed to Liverpool’s successful application as a European Capital of Culture in 2008.
From its launch and up to 2015, the Centre considered only European citizens for its projects. More recently, it has extended its offer to include artists not only from Europe, but also from the rest of the world. Artists from 37 different European countries attended one or more projects when the Centre was only focused on Europe. The Centre has undertaken performance projects in 17 countries, with singers being auditioned and assisted in 50 cities. Its most recent auditions have attracted applicants from 77 countries.
Those wishing to pursue careers in opera are selected through open auditions or through interviews to take part in opera projects. These can be staged or semi-staged performances, recordings, masterclasses, tours and short-term residencies. During projects, but also afterwards, the Centre provides guidance, experience and support to those starting careers in many different disciplines in opera, mostly singers but also assistant conductors, repeiteurs, stage directors, administrators, stage and production managers.
The Centre has also been active in touring and bringing opera to places and audiences that do not have the opportunity to experience it, either for purely geographical reasons, such as places that are isolated from main cultural production centres, or for financial (being unable to afford a ticket for an opera performance) or social reasons (believing that opera is an elite art form, aimed only at connoisseurs).
Keeping up with developments in technology and the digital world, the European Opera Centre has developed the concept of online coaching, which has been identified to be of great benefit to artists who are otherwise physically unable to attend individual coaching sessions.
During the 2016/2017 academic year, the European Opera Centre extended its outreach activities by creating links with the primary education sector, developing a multi-disciplinary programme for pupils in collaboration with Barlows Primary School, situated in the north of Liverpool. The school itself has been assessed as delivering outstanding work and plays a role in training teachers.
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