Alex Stevens

Editor, Music Teacher

Q&A: Mayowa Fakorede

5:30, 18th April 2018

Mayowa Fakorede is one of eight sixth-formers from Archbishop Tenison’s School in Lambeth who have taken part in Hip Hop to Opera, a film in which Opera Holland Park general director Michael Volpe introduces them to opera by taking them backstage at the Royal Opera House for a performance of Tosca. He spoke to Alex Stevens

How did you get involved with this project?
Well, Michael Volpe has been mentoring people in my school’s sixth form for the last two years. He had done a similar project with three football fans [From Footy to Verdi in 2016], and he wanted to have that same thing for students in secondary school: what did they think about opera? In the first instance I didn’t buy it, because opera wasn’t really something that I would want to go to or which interested me at all. But he said why not just try it? It’s something that would open my mind to different things.

What kind of music do you listen to generally? And what about live music?
I listen to a vast amount of music: hip-hop, drill, trap, sometimes classical and R&B, so quite a variety. I’ve been to my friend’s gig – he plays the drums so I just went to see him perform – but apart from that nothing live. I listen to music mostly on SoundCloud and YouTube.

What were your impressions of opera before you took part in the project?
I feel like opera was something that wasn’t for people my age. It wasn’t attractive to me, in the same way that hip-hop, drill or trap wouldn’t be attractive to a middle-aged person but would be to me. I thought it was a type of music for a type of people, not a music for everyone.

Do you think that’s because you thought you might need to know certain things about the music, or you just weren’t interested?
I feel like it’s because I wasn’t exposed to it. I moved to this country in 2010, and when I moved we had a teacher in primary school who we called our rap teacher. He brought about six of us together, and we started writing bars and lyrics. And it was because he exposed us to this that today I’ve performed in school productions, I’ve produced stuff on YouTube and SoundCloud – because I’ve been exposed to it.

When you went to the Royal Opera House, what were your impressions?
There are some times where you see something you really like because of how it’s produced: I was seeing how it was made, and opera came across to me as something that was really amazing. I realised that I thought Beyoncé could sing, or Rihanna could sing – but with opera singers there’s this amazing instrument in the human voice. Or listening to a lot of violins and clarinets, and how everything just works together: it hasn’t been made on a Mac computer, it’s live. People can do this for two hours and not make one mistake – it’s just amazing. So it was just a great experience. At the end of the show I was clapping and standing up, just because I could appreciate it. It wasn’t because it had emotionally affected me, it was about trying something new and appreciating what is behind it.

So do you think you will go back to the opera, under your own steam?
Well I was talking to one of my old teachers in the school yesterday, also asking me if I’d go to watch opera again. I wouldn’t be shy. This is the way I put it myself: if I had the money to go to opera, and I’ve seen the trailer or someone’s told me that it’s good – just like Michael told us Tosca was good – most definitely I’d see it again. I highly rate that my school has given us the opportunity to do this. Not many schools do. And most importantly to the other seven students who participated, I feel like it was very brave of them. I ended up seeing a bigger picture of myself and my friends, in a place where we’d never seen ourselves before.

Opera Holland Park’s inaugural Schools’ Matinee – a special performance of La traviata reserved exclusively for school groups aged between seven and 18 – will take place on 13 June. Tickets are £5 each, and financial assistance is available. Ahead of the matinee, OHP is also offering workshops for students, CPD workshops for teachers and resource packs.

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