Royal Opera House thanks NHS workers with special performance of La Bohème

YESTERDAY, on Sunday 27 June, the Royal Opera House presented a special performance of Puccini’s opera of passion, friendship and heartbreak: La bohème. One of the best-loved operas worldwide, this beautiful production by Richard Jones was presented to an auditorium of specially-invited NHS staff, including nurses and healthcare support workers from the Royal Opera House’s nearest hospitals: Guys’ and St Thomas’s NHS Foundation, University College Hospital, St Bartholomew’s Hospital, Imperial, and Chelsea and Westminster Hospitals, among others.

This special performance was the first of four events the Royal Opera House has planned over the course of the next year to say thank you to the dedicated and heroic staff of the NHS after one of the most challenging times in recent history as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The performance came to a close on Sunday afternoon to rapturous applause, but instead of the applause coming from the audience, this time the applause came from the stage, as cast members and musicians of The Royal Opera and the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House came together to show their appreciation to the invited audience of NHS workers. [Video included in notes to editors]

Leyla Ahmet and Mary Thomas from the Simulation and Clinical Skills team at Whipps Cross Hospital, said:

“As first timers we were so excited to experience La Boheme at the Royal Opera House. It totally exceeded all of our expectations. The talent is phenomenal. We were blown away. One of the most special and unique moments where the entire cast and orchestra clapped the NHS-filled audience, it was so moving that we were moved to tears.”

Katy, Consultant Nurse, National Hospital of Neurology, said:

“My shoulders have dropped. I’m smiling. I feel relaxed and happy”

Katie, Deputy Head of nursing, Guys and St Thomas’ Hospital said:

“It was wonderful and emotional. It was beautiful”

In September, the Royal Opera House will host a special Family Sunday event dedicated to NHS workers and their families, with activities including dance, singing and craft workshops and performance, inspired by the repertory of The Royal Ballet and The Royal Opera. NHS workers and their families will be invited to explore the iconic Royal Opera House building to go behind the scenes.

In the run up to Christmas, on 4 December, the Royal Opera House will invite NHS workers and their families to see The Royal Ballet’s sumptuous production of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker as part of our annual Paul Hamlyn Christmas Treat. The surrounding events, activities and pop-up performances promise to make this a truly memorable and magical Christmas experience.

Thank You NHS will continue on March 19 2022 with a performance of The Royal Ballet’s magnificent Swan Lake, a favourite of the ballet repertory and arguably the best-known and most-loved classical ballet.

Additionally, last month, the Royal Opera Chorus partnered with more than 30 hospital radio stations around the country, from Cornwall to the Isle of Man, to share highlights of the opera and song repertory with thousands of patients, doctors and hospital workers given the chance to enjoy performances including the famous Habanera from Bizet’s Carmen; extracts from Mozart’s La clemenza de Tito, Così fan tutte, and Verdi’s Rigoletto, and favourites from Gilbert and Sullivan.

The Thank you NHS performance of La bohème was made possible thanks to generous philanthropic support from the Laidlaw Foundation.

Jillian Barker, Director of Learning and Participation at the Royal Opera House, said:

“After the incredible challenges of the last 12 months, the dedicated and tireless work of NHS staff has been monumental. Their work has helped to save countless lives during this challenging year, and I am delighted that we had this chance to give hundreds of nurses, porters and healthcare support workers from our nearest hospitals, as well as their families, the opportunity to enjoy these wonderful ballet and opera experiences.”

Danielle de Niese, who played Musetta in Sunday’s performance, said to the audience of NHS workers at the beginning of Sunday’s performance:

“As with many works of great opera, La bohème blends tragedy and comedy to capture the intensity of life’s experiences through its characters.

“For you, our invited audience, this intensity is a part of your everyday, and following the last 15 months of illness and loss, your work and the work of all your colleagues in the NHS has been truly historic and monumental, undoubtedly helping to save countless lives up and down the country.

“We are absolutely delighted to welcome you for this afternoon’s performance, and on behalf of all of us at the Royal Opera House, there is nothing left to say but simply “thank you”.”

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