Scottish opera’s reimagined primary schools tour is providing pupils across Scotland with access to the performing arts.

Scottish Opera’s award-winning Primary Schools Tour, which is now on the road for the rest of the academic year, with the newly created show, Vikings! The Quest for the Dragon’s Treasure, has been re-imagined and expanded to make it more accessible and adaptable for all schools in Scotland to take part.

Vikings!, which delivers aspects of A Curriculum for Excellence, is designed for primary 5, 6 and 7 pupils, and schools can now engage with the production as a digital only learning and teaching experience, using online resources currently available on Scottish Opera’s website, to prepare the children for all aspects of presenting a performance to an audience.

This online delivery method — which includes Scottish Opera singers appearing on screen in classrooms to sing alongside the class — makes the project even easier and more affordable for teachers to engage with, particularly in those schools without specialist music teachers at primary level.

With 50-plus years of experience in classrooms, Scottish Opera’s Outreach and Education Programme has developed this approach because it recognised that the in-person learning Primary Schools Tour experience reaches capacity very quickly each year, so a complementary strand of the programme has been created in the form of a set of exclusively online resources — so many more schools across Scotland can participate — and at a much lower cost per pupil.

For schools that are already signed up for the hybrid version, the same teaching resources that teach the music and movement, as well as offering a range of subject related activities that can enrich the cross curricular learning experience, are used to prepare the pupils to enjoy a day-long workshop with Scottish Opera’s team of highly experienced arts education animateurs and performers. On the morning of the workshop, they and the pupils spend just four hours together, rehearsing then performing an all-singing, all-dancing 30-minute show in their school for classmates, friends and family, complete with fabulous costumes and props, backed by a fully orchestrated soundtrack.

By providing these two complementary opportunities for pupils to engage in outstanding musical experiences, Scottish Opera is cognisant of the crucial need to support music teaching in Scottish schools which, as the research carried out by The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland into music education in Scotland between 2018 and 2019, and also the report by the Music Education Partnership Group (MEPG) published in February 2019 , shows, there has been a decline in the number of specialist music teachers in schools.

With music by Alan Penman and lyrics by Natalie Arle-Toyne, Vikings! takes pupils on a magical journey of magic and mystery. An ancient prophecy sends the Viking Queen and her swashbuckling band of warriors off to steal gemstones from the legendary Ice Dragon, while the sneaky Sorcerer Supreme stays behind, planning to seize power. The wise Villagers foresee that stealing the gems is just the start of their troubles. Soon the Sorcerers, Vikings and Villagers must work together to restore balance to the land, for they’ve stolen treasure more precious than gold or silver, and the stakes are higher than they could possibly have imagined.

Jane Davidson MBE, Scottish Opera’s Director of Outreach and Education said: ‘In 2024 – the year of the Chinese Dragon – Scottish Opera Education is thrilled to welcome another magical flying beast into its repertoire. A tale inspired by Norse legends, our dragon is more closely related to the creatures who feature in Cressida Cowell’s ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ books, or the ones created by JK Rowling and J.R.R. Tolkien. We hope that pupils in primary schools across Scotland will delight in this original story, where the Vikings learn that not all treasure consists of gold and jewels, and that living in harmony with the land and the seasons is a lesson they’d be silly to ignore!’

Vikings! forms part of a suite of Scottish Opera’s digital offerings for schools, which includes The Curse of MacCabbra Opera House, featuring music from composer Alan Penman and lyrics from writer and director Johnny McKnight.

Rachel Evans, class teacher at Hillhead Primary in Glasgow, which staged The Curse of MacCabbra Opera House last year using the digital resource pack said: ‘Sometimes a school show can be a big undertaking, but the resources make it so much easier and so much more manageable. It helps with workload because it’s all there for you. The songs are so catchy and so engaging for the kids.’

Teachers from Taynuilt Primary in Argyll & Bute described performing The Curse of MacCabbra Opera house as ‘fantastic’, adding that for some of the children ‘it has ignited what may turn out to be a lifelong interest in live music and performance’. They also praised the ‘very user-friendly and comprehensive’ learning resources.

World Premiere of “Vikings! The Quest for the Dragon’s Treasure” at Tinto Primary

Tinto Primary was alive with Viking warriors, sneaky sorcerers and wise villagers as Scottish Opera’s Primary Schools Tour of “Vikings! The Quest for the Dragon’s Treasure” kicked off with an exhilarating performance.

Everyone at Tinto Primary was thrilled when we were chosen to be the first performance for “Vikings!”, as this meant the world premiere took place in our very own hall. Our P6 and P7 pupils had been rehearsing since December and their hard work, flair and dedication paid off with sparkling performances and standing ovations from pupils and parents alike.

The children were delighted to be singing with the wonderful performers from Scottish Opera, whose soaring voices and stagecraft were a real inspiration for the children on the day. The exciting score and plot made for an enriching experience for the children, who are still singing the songs, humming the tunes and reminiscing excitedly about the show. Some are even planning a career in theatre!

Thank you so much to everyone at Scottish Opera for a wonderful day and for brining so much joy to our children.

Nicola Fisher, Principal Teacher, Tinto Primary School, Glasgow.

Find out more about Vikings! and Scottish Opera’s other Primary Schools productions.