WNO is going back to school

4 January 2024

With the Christmas holidays over and pupils heading back to school, we at Welsh National Opera are getting excited for our own trip to the classroom this Spring when we bring the School for Lovers to life in a brand-new production of Mozart’s Così fan tutte. In this coming-of-age comic opera, four sixth formers are given a valuable lesson in love, life and liberty when their teacher involves them in a secret experiment and places them in a series of amusing scenarios. 

Of course, this is not the only time art, love and schools have combined for our entertainment. From musicals, to movies and songs to television, highschool romance is a permanent fixture in pop culture. 

Television has always been a hot-bed of young love, from British classics such as Grange Hill and Byker Grove where we saw relationships between Ted and Chrissy and Julie and the rebellious Gill Gillespie, respectively, to American favourites like Beverly Hills, 90210 and Gossip Girl, which had more on and off lovers and relationship swaps then you could keep track of. Beverley Hills was full of teenage sweethearts; Donna and David, Andrea and Steve, Brandon and Kelly and the love triangle between Kelly, Brandon’s twin sister Brenda and ‘90s TV’s hottest bad-boy, Dylan McKay. Speaking of 90s TV, we can’t talk about a School for Lovers and not mention the quintessential 90s couple, Zack and Kelly from Saved by the Bell. Their break-up sent shockwaves through the fanbase, but reflected a situation that a lot of high schoolers go through.

In today’s pop-culture, the most relatable singer-songwriter, Taylor Swift, often sings about school days and falling in and out of love. Her song Betty explores a high-school love triangle and the complexities that follow; You Belong With Me delves into the emotions of unrequited love, striking a chord with listeners who’ve experienced similar situations during their school years; and Fifteen beautifully reflects the challenges and lessons learned throughout one’s school life.  

Musicals also tend to focus on school-based love lives and life lessons. 1988’s Hairspray is set in a high school where personal appearance, race, love and learning what’s most important to you are at the forefront. The latest recipient of a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Zac Efron, starred in the 2007 remake after getting his big break in Disney’s High School Musical (and its two sequels); a story of how finding young love can put you on a path to finding your true self. 

One of the most famous musicals about high school love is, of course, Grease. There are several romantic relationships in the story, however, the love story between Danny and Sandy, who met during the school summer break, is iconic. The students head back to school after the summer holidays and are initially thrilled to realise they are in the same year, however, it’s not all smooth sailing. 

To find out whether the couples in our new production of Così fan tutte have their Danny and Sandy ending, join us this Spring as we tour to Cardiff, Llandudno, Southampton, Oxford, Bristol and Birmingham.