Opera Helps began as a site-specific art project in which professional opera singers visited people in the comfort of their own homes to sing to them one to one. It harnessed the redemptive power of opera to help with participant’s personal problems. Unlike therapy, or a trip to the doctor, Opera Helps doesn’t aim to cure the problem – but participants found the experience deeply affecting and have felt that their private space feels different afterwards.
Of course, due to Covid19 restrictions we cannot currently welcome strangers into our homes. Nevertheless, Opera Helps creator, internationally renowned artist and passionate opera enthusiast Joshua Sofaer, has been inspired to work with producers Wunderbar to adapt the concept for online delivery. They feel that now, more than ever, the power of live opera can be a powerful tool to help people through a time of crisis, a crisis that is causing great stress and difficulty. So, for Opera Helps Online, people with a problem are invited to contact Opera Helps to arrange for an online visit from a professional opera singer.
Anyone can apply for an Opera Helps slot. The simple process is explained at https://operahelps.com – if it’s felt that Opera Helps can meet the applicant’s needs, an appointment will be made. Taking part is an intimate and personal experience. People who have a problem – it can be anything that they find worrying – apply to book a session and arrangements are made for a singer to meet you online. The singer will listen attentively to the participant’s account of their troubles before selecting a suitable aria to sing. Face to face onscreen, the power of the voice beaming into a domestic setting creates an intense and moving experience. The participant hears music in an unfamiliar way, encouraging them to listen attentively, while focusing and reflecting on their individual problem.
Opera Helps lasts approximately 30 minutes and it is completely free. The project will run until mid October.
‘Historically opera was always a popular art form,’ says Joshua. ‘Even 50 years ago hairdressers in Italy would sing arias as they worked. Yet now it is seen as something highbrow, for the rich and highly educated, inaccessible to most people. By relocating opera to the home in an online setting and relating it to personal problems I truly think we can introduce people to the music who wouldn’t otherwise have given it a chance.’
As a passionate opera enthusiast, Joshua found that listening to opera had a direct emotional impact on him. It reached his heart and core very quickly, had a very positive effect on his mood and he came away refreshed. Joshua sees Opera Helps as a way of introducing new audiences to his passion as well as demonstrating the transformative power of song.
A pool of 6 experienced professional singers have been specially trained by Joshua (an accredited Relational Dynamics coach) to listen appropriately, to empathise and to ask simple, open questions but not to offer advice or counselling. With little or no live work currently available, Opera Helps is providing unique work opportunities for them.
‘We know that Opera Helps affects audiences deeply.’ says Ilana Mitchell, Wunderbar’s Artistic Director. ‘We strive to make work that meets its audiences in the places where they live and work, so it is a privilege to be adapting Opera Helps to bring an intimate experience to people who might be stuck at home, living through these challenging, isolating times. Working with Joshua again is a pleasure too – he’s an outstanding artist producing work which, on the surface, appears deceptively simple, but is transformative, carrying extraordinary depth and attention to detail.’
Opera Helps Online is open for applications now and continues until mid October. Visit https://operahelps.com or call 07943 939395.
Photo credit: Will Knight