To mark the official launch of Scottish Opera’s Confucius Classroom hub status on 16 February, Chinese New Year, there will be a special performance of the Company’s primary school tour production, The Dragon of the Western Sea, at Jordanhill Primary in Glasgow. This will be followed by the presentation of a commemorative plaque by Chinese Consul General Pan Xinchun.

The award of Confucius Classroom Hub status was given at the end of last year by Hanban in Beijing, the headquarters of Confucius Institutes worldwide. Scottish Opera is the first opera company in the world to be selected for this accolade, and is one of four new hubs based outwith a school setting.

Scottish Opera will be opening its own ‘classroom’ at the Company’s Edington Street Production Studios, where resources on Chinese performance, arts and culture will be kept. It will be used as a rehearsal space for Chinese-related programmes.

Confucius Classrooms are hubs usually based in schools and serving the local community. The concept promotes joint planning of cultural activities, sharing ideas and resources to stimulate the learning and teaching of Chinese language and culture.

Scottish Opera’s Primary Schools Tour began on 15 January and tours all over Scotland until November, giving thousands of pupils from Primaries 5, 6 and 7 the chance to take part in this interactive musical experience. The Dragon of the Western Sea tells the story of Admiral Zheng He and his vast fleet of ships with 28,000 crew which set sail from China to Indonesia, India, Arabia and the grasslands of Africa in search of trade, treaties and treasure.

Composed by Alan Penman with lyrics by Ross Stenhouse, pupils learn the words and songs in their own classrooms and then work with a Scottish Opera team to prepare for a performance in front of classmates, friends and family.

Jane Davidson, Director of Outreach and Education at Scottish Opera, said that she is ‘delighted and proud’ that the Company has been named a Confucius Classroom Hub: ‘Scottish Opera, with its national remit, will use its new status to create opportunities for Scottish children and young people to explore the artistic culture of China through the medium of our European style of opera. Specialised art forms such as folk tales, puppetry, dance and visuals can provide rich sources for musical and dramatic fusion.

‘The composer and librettist were inspired by this real life story to create a dramatic tale of adventure on the high seas. The plot gives us a wonderful opportunity to introduce Scottish primary pupils to a different perspective on the age of discovery. Admiral He predated the journeys made by European explorers by many years. Using a blend of musical styles as well as key words and phrases from China, Africa and India, the opera provides a fascinating snapshot of the history and customs of other cultures in an appealing and accessible way.’

Fhiona Mackay, Director, Scotland’s National Centre for Languages and Confucius Institute for Scotland’s Schools added: ‘Scotland is the first country in the world to host Confucius classrooms in establishments such as Scottish Opera that are of significant cultural, national and international importance.  We see this innovation as a way of supporting Scottish Opera’s educational outreach programme so that youngsters, families and communities across Scotland have the opportunity to explore Chinese culture and language through the arts.  It’s exciting to see the plans for the classroom coming to fruition and we are looking forward to it becoming a bridge between the two countries that enables the sharing of ideas, the development of opportunities and the creativity of thought that is made possible when people come together.’

In October 2017, a team from the Education Department at Scottish Opera travelled to Beijing to perform a show called Warriors! The Incredible Army, working with 900 pupils from Fang Cao Di International School. The show had previously toured primary schools in Scotland.