A Look Back at Co*Opera*tion

13 December, 2017

RESEO’s Autumn Conference 2017 Co*Opera*tion: Social and Emotional Learning Through Opera, Music and Dance took place in Düsseldorf and Duisberg on 23-25 November. Organised in partnership with Deutsche Oper am Rhein, it took an in-depth look at creative co-operation in arts education.

For three days at the colder end of November, RESEO members and guests were brought together in friendship and mutual inspiration as part of a remarkable event that gave us all the feeling we were stepping into a new era of excellence in arts education.

Exciting New Commissions as Part of a Unique Collaboration Programme

With Deutsche Oper am Rhein as our hosts and following a welcome address from Isabel Pfeiffer-Poensgen, Minister of Culture and Science of North Rhein-Westphalia, members were wowed by the two opera houses in Dusseldorf and Duisberg (complete with backstage tour and performance of Madama Butterfly) and intrigued by the unique collaboration that exists between the twin houses.
Further curiosity was aroused by house General Director Prof. Christoph Meyer, as he outlined the tripartite cooperation “Junge Oper Rhein-Ruhr” between Deutsche Oper am Rhein, Theater Dortmund and Theater Bonn. This merger of resources to produce new opera for children showed that, in these times of economic and political instability, cooperation not only enables us to continue working but makes our work better and more impactful with impressive numbers of visitors able to discover brand new commissions. We had the chance to watch their latest commission, the delightful “Gullivers Reise”. Delegates expressed a real desire to learn more about how companies can create strategic partnerships, perhaps even internationally.

© Andreas Endermann

A Wealth of Inspiring Education Projects

Delegates were further inspired by the sharing of projects large and small: the Goodnight Opera for 0-4 year olds (Almighty Productions, Geneva); Holland Opera’s Table Music helping children with learn multiplications; Compagnie Minute Papillon’s opera adventures in schools; composer David Chaillou’s beautiful Little Nemo co-production; the imaginative “Kunst und Spiele” programme (Robert Bosch Stiftung Foundation); and the international Best Opera winner awarded by Young Audiences Music Ihmepoika A (Wonder Boy A) from Finnish National Opera. Deserving special mention was Deutsche Oper am Rhein’s own “Opernmacher” project, where distinct teams of young participants created libretto, music and production, demonstrating that young people can take full responsibility for creating an inspiring, high-quality artistic production.

Delegates were enthusiastic about all the showcased projects, asking questions and sharing encouragement or advice to solve commonly experienced challenges or offer new creative ideas.

© Julia Mueller-Thuns

Speed-Dating For Arts Educators

The RESEO Production Space – almost like speed-dating for arts educators – was an opportunity for delegates to get to know as many people as possible from across the network and connect with others interested in creating projects. With network members expressing great interest in developing new strategic partnerships and supportive connections, RESEO is looking to facilitate more events like this at future conferences.

It is fantastic to observe how after decades of championing arts education, the work of RESEO and its members is now so well recognised that specialist arts education companies are forming and seeking to collaborate across internationally. Would this have been possible 20 years ago?

© Julia Mueller-Thuns

Exploring SEL in Work With Young People

Social and Emotional Learning was a key theme for the conference, reflecting an exciting new cooperation between RESEO and researchers from the University of Den Haag in the field of psychology, exploring how arts education can profit from its implicit SEL activities. Keynote speeches from Robin Batterjee (Sussex University) and Banu Gokoglan (Mindfulness Instructor) highlighted the beneficial connection of arts to wellbeing, and composer-researcher Omar Shahryar (University of York) shared practical examples of how SEL could be integrated in practice to enhance the value of creative projects. Music and dance practice workshops given by Krysztina Winkel & Anja Fürstenberg (Deutsche Oper am Rhein), Clare Guss-West and Anna-Lena Geerdts (Landstheater Linz) not only refreshed delegates but stimulated new ideas and approaches for arts activities.

© Julia Mueller-Thuns

In a final reflection session members expressed many ideas and opinions that will be taken into consideration for future network activities, including: working groups to look at specific issues in depth, online resources for sharing information about productions, mini-symposiums to be held by members around existing performances and more “speed-dating”!

Above all, the delegates took hope, energy and inspiration with them as they left the conference, not to mention the fond friendships, old and new, that would keep us warm as we paid a final visit to Duisburg Christmas Market. We’re already looking forward to Bern in April 2018!

Omar Shahryar
RESEO Steering Committee Member