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Last Updated: Saturday, 29 November, 2003, 01:48 GMT
Homeless perform opera in Oxford
Sleeping rough on the street
Opera has been performed for the first time by homeless people in Oxford.

The charity behind the project, Streetwise Opera, helped train volunteers to sing, perform and develop theatre skills.

Professional opera singers joined them for last night's production at New College, which was sold out.

The show's director, Matthew Peacock, said he hoped the music boosted the confidence of the homeless people involved and would help them in life.

'Inward looking'

Following Friday's performance, Mr Peacock said: "We're just trying to make them feel good about themselves and give them a bit more confidence."

He also hoped it would make the homeless people talk to one another and agency staff more often, as it could help solve some of their problems.

"Occasionally we find people who have started chatting to housing workers for the first time, because they have just been very inward looking," the director said.

After the show the audience were both baffled and enthralled, Mr Peacock said.

"I know it's been a good show when people come up to me and say 'who was the professional and who was the homeless person', it's exactly what I want," he explained.

Big show

The Oxford show involved at least 25 local organisations in addition to the New College choir.

It followed past successes including two performances of Benjamin Britten's Canticles at Westminster Abbey in 2002.

Mr Peacock hopes many others will follow, as long as funding continues.

He hopes to stage at least one big show a year and to continue the 250 workshops a year currently conducted in homeless hostels in London.

The BBC's Nick Thatcher
"The opera is already a sell-out"

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