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A History of Pimlico Opera

Pimlico Opera (founded in 1987) was originally a touring company. Today it works in prisons and primary schools.

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In 1989 Pimlico Opera performed two operas in Wormwood Scrubs: Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro and Walton’s The Bear. The first joint production with prisoners took place a year later with people serving life sentences.

Since then we have taken over 60,000 members of the public into prison. We have worked with more than 1,000 prisoners and have given crucial first employment to prisoners on their release. Over 10,000 prisoners have seen a performance. Since 1989, there have been 25 co-productions, listed below.

In November 1992, the collaboration with Wandsworth Prison, Guys & Dolls, was the subject of a BBC2 documentary “Guys, Dolls & D wing” which was nominated for a BAFTA.

In 1994 Pimlico Opera staged the UK (and European) premiere of Shostakovich’ musical Cheryomushki in the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith. Pimlico Opera commissioned David Pountney to write an English text, and composer Gerard McBurney to create a reduced orchestration. The BBC made a documentary on the project (Another Bite of the Cherry) which included footage from the 1963 Lenfilm version. In 1995 it was recorded for BBC Music Magazine (Volume 3, Number 80).

Cheryomushki 1994

Every week of the school year, Primary Robins gives primary school children a half-hour singing class in schools in deprived areas with no other music provision at no cost to the school or parents.

The project began in 2013 with 380 Robins. Today there are 6,060 Robins, spread over Durham, Newcastle, Manchester, Surrey, Kent, Essex, Lewisham, Staffordshire and Hampshire equating to more than 100,000 hours of teaching during the school year.

Pimlico Opera’s Lengthy Sentence

1989 HMP Wormwood Scrubs Le Nozze di Figaro
& The Bear
1991 HMP Wormwood Scrubs Sweeney Todd
1992 HMP Wandsworth West Side Story
1993 HMP Wandsworth Guys & Dolls
1995 HMP Wandsworth West Side Story
1996 Mountjoy Prison, Ireland West Side Story
1997 HMP Bullingdon, Oxfordshire West Side Story
1999 HMP Downview, Surrey Threepenny Opera
2001 HMP Winchester Threepenny Opera
2002 HMP Winchester West Side Story
2003 HMP Wormwood Scrubs Guys & Dolls
2004 HMP Ashwell, Leicestershire Assassins
2005 HMP Coldingley, Surrey Assassins

2006 HMP Bronzefield, Chicago
2007 HMP Wandsworth Les Misérables
2008 HMP Kingston Sweeney Todd (project cancelled)
2009 HMP Wandsworth West Side Story
2010 HMP Wandsworth Carmen – The Musical
2011 HMP Send, Surrey Sugar
2012 HMP Erlestoke, Wiltshire Les Misérables
2013 HMP Erlestoke, Wiltshire West Side Story
2014 HMP Bronzefield Sister Act
2015 HMP ISIS Our House
2017 HMP High Down Les Misérables
2018 HMP Bronzefield Sweet Charity
2020 HMP Bronzefield Hairspray
2022 HMP Bronzefield Betty Blue Eyes