Last week 20 young members of Trinity Boys’ Choir returned to school, having spent the first three and a half weeks of term rehearsing and then performing Britten’s opera ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ at the Opera de Rouen in Normandy.  

Trinity Boys’ Choir has a long and distinguished history of performing this opera professionally. It is always demanding as the boys form the chorus (there is no adult chorus as is normally the case in operas) and feature at various key moments in the story.  

This production, by Robert Carsen, dates from 1991 when Trinity boys first appeared at the Aix-en-Provence Festival in France and the choir has since been a valued component of revivals at English National Opera (four times), in Aix and in Beijing. Britten’s music is challenging and makes no allowances for it being sung by children and the choreography, by Matthew Bourne, is detailed and exacting. The rehearsals were intensive and the boys, as ever, were challenged to perform at the highest professional level.  

Second Year student Ben says, “It was an amazing experience and we learnt so much from working alongside top professional musicians”. 

Rehearsals and performances only took up part of the schedule as the boys had to do schoolwork, take exercise and learn about the area where they were staying. Former Trinity pupil, Alexander Lee, who is also a very talented singer, acted as the boys’ tutor and supervised schoolwork.  

Exercise included morning runs along the River Seine and swimming sessions in a local pool. Mr Swinson, Director of Trinity Boys’ Choir, says, “It is really important that the boys stay fit and healthy as the opera is physically demanding and they are living as a group so any illness spreads quickly. We always do a lot of walking and make sure that boys eat well. The more energetic among them can join in with the morning runs.” 

Educational excursions included the history of Rouen, with a look inside The Church of Joan of Arc, and a brilliant day out at the Normandy beaches, including visits to the American Cemetery and the British Normandy Memorial, which was opened in 2021. 

The boys were living away from home, sharing rooms in pairs in a hotel in the centre of Rouen. Second Year student Arlo says, “I think I grew up a lot. I had to share a room and keep it tidy. This was a challenge, but I learnt that if the room was a mess, I could never find anything!” 

The boys have received outstanding reviews for their performances: 

Hugh Canning’s Operalogue: “…the chorus of 20 fairies, superbly sung by Trinity Boys Choir (under their ‘chef’ David Swinson, who takes them to Glyndebourne for a revival of the even older Peter Hall production later this year…” 

José Pons, Olyrix, said, “The elves are inspired and performed impeccably by members of the famous Trinity Boys Choir conducted by David Swinson. The overall level of this choir of young people is of the excellence of the great English tradition of children’s voices.  

Stéphane Lelièvre, Première Loge, said, “Finally, the Trinity Boys Choir, prepared by David Swinson, is absolutely stunning in terms of precision and musicality!”  

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