What?: I’d never been to the Royal Opera House before – come to think of it I’ve never been to the opera before – but the ROH is every bit as fancy as I’d imagined, having been refurbished earlier this year. The main public space is absolutely lush, all light and air with a scrumptious cafe serving real hot chocolate to rival my beloved Gail’s. We hovered here a while among the laptop workers and well-heeled show-goers before making our way up to Paul Hamlyn Hall (also newly refurbished and also pretty impressive), which was a bit of a struggle in the Borrower-sized lifts given that there were 30 other people with buggies attempting to do the same thing, but we made it up there eventually, aided by the butler-like stewards, and were still left with a bit of time for Babu to frolic on the foam jigsaw play mat before it all kicked off.
The costumed singer, who was playing the part of Gretel (of Hansel and), came and introduced herself to each of the kids in character – albeit in the same ever-so-slightly patronising voice I sometimes use to address my cat. Then it was straight into the workshop, which took the form of an interactive performance in which ‘Gretel’ single-handedly reproduced Engelbert Humperdinck’s classic in toddler-size chunks, accompanied by a pianist. Little ones were encouraged to fully immerse themselves in the tale, joining in both vocally and physically, and dragging their grown-ups with them on an adventure around the play mat. Babu struggled a little bit to engage and kept whining at me to fetch random objects from her bag – including snacks, which we weren’t allowed, and which I’ve noticed generally indicates boredom rather than hunger.
Overall I can’t say I was blown away by the workshop, which I was expecting big things from given that it’s been featured in most of the national papers and seems to sell out the second tickets go on sale. While of course it’s a bit of a novelty to be in the company of a professional opera singer and it’s definitely great that something generally regarded as a pastime of the old and rich is being made available to the very young for just £10 a pop, we’ve been to several very similar (and usually somewhat cheaper) workshops before and I can’t say this one particularly stood out for us, aside from its being held in a pretty fancy location. We did this about six weeks ago and – I’ll be honest – I’ve basically forgotten what we actually did, which I think says quite a lot about it. In fact the thing I remember most, aside from the amazing hot chocolate, was Babu insisting we help dismantle the foam jigsaw thing at the end, which she made us stay back for 15 minutes to do and was without doubt her favourite bit of the entire session.
Where and When?: Opera Dots sessions are currently sold out until March 2019, with tickets for subsequent dates available to book from the 30th January. Sessions take place in the Royal Opera House’s Paul Hamlyn Hall (the ROH is a three-minute walk to Covent Garden station) at 10.30 (3-12 months), 11.30 (12 months-2.5 years) and 12.30 (2.5-5 years) on selected Mondays.
Best Bits: Definitely the setting. It’s grand but modern and as soon as you step through the door you get the feeling that you’re somewhere quite special.
Worst Bits: It was all perfectly lovely, it just didn’t have the stand-out factor for me.
Facilities: Baby changing, buggy parking, step-free access, on-site cafe.
Cost: £10 per child
Would We Come Back?: No but we will be back for ROH’s Ballet Dots workshops, which run along a similar theme except, y’know, ballet.
Babu frolics pre-workshop at Opera Dots, Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.