Premiering at the Brighton Festival in May, our world premiere production of The Lion’s Face toured the UK throughout the summer. As the project engaged with difficult and often personal issues related to the physical and emotional impacts of Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia, TOG organised a wide ranging set of associated activities to support the opera in conjunction with our venues, service providers, the Alzheimer’s Society and our partners at King’s College London. Alongside and throughout the process, we also engaged the services of the Centre for Medical Humanities at Durham University to provide a thorough evaluation of our work and its impacts on our audiences. Karen Scott was the lead researcher and over the opera’s run she spoke to many members of our audiences and participants in our seminars and talks to understand their experience of the work.
Here are some of her initial thoughts:
“I elicited views from 65 audience members at eight performances (including previews) across five venues. Responses came from a variety of people including professionals, patients, carers and people with no personal connection to the issue of dementia but who were interested in new opera. There were also several people who had never seen an opera before…Overall, the response to The Lion’s Face can be described as very positive. It is clear that the majority of respondents felt the work reflected an accurate portrayal of the disease and its effects. Descriptions such as ‘so real’ or ‘true to life’ were commonly used…. The fact that the opera was raising awareness of the issue and that there was a clear representation of the distress caused by the illness was an important factor in the way that audience members dealt with their emotions. In this sense there was a validation of these emotions rather than an unnecessary provocation.
“Many people had never seen an opera before and a common reaction was that they had been very engaged by the work contrary to their expectations. Many people mentioned the libretto and appreciated the ‘clever’ use of double meanings to illustrate the confusion inherent in language for someone loosing their coherence….. most people felt that the opera dealt very well with the issue and was an appropriate and suitable medium. One couple, keen opera goers, felt that The Lion’s Face has ‘extended the scope of opera’. “
The full evaluation report from the Centre for Medical Humanities will be submitted in the autumn.