Dream team creates opera for kids

Schoolchildren and award-winning artists are to perform a new opera about the mysteries of sleep amidst the glasshouses and winding paths of a major city garden.

Watching, which runs 18-21 March at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, will follow two colourful apothecaries through the Land of Nod, encountering vivid nightmares and sweet lullabies as they try to cure a little girl’s sleeplessness.


Wednesday 18 March 2015, 7.00pm

Saturday 21 March 2015, 8.30pm

Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, North Gate, Inverleith Place, EH3 5NZ

Tickets £10 (full price); £5 (concession)

How and why we sleep

The performance for families, which features scenes in various locations around the garden, is part of a project between the University of Edinburgh and Oxford Brookes University looking at how and why we sleep.

The production, supported by an Arts Award from the Wellcome Trust, aims to raise awareness of the links between children’s sleep and academic performance.

New score

Watching’s score, inspired by music’s effect on wakefulness, has been composed by Dee Isaacs, leader of the University of Edinburgh’s Music in the Community programme.

Ms Isaacs and her students have been working with children from P4-P7 in Leith Walk Primary School to stage the opera and learn about the importance of good sleep.

Watching has been an amazing experience, not just in composing the music, but in working with the pupils from Leith Walk Primary School and the students. Music is so inextricably linked to sleep - it can lull us and reach into our dreams. Watching will showcase music’s power over our waking and sleeping lives as well as these children's infectious enthusiasm for performing an opera for the first time.

Dee IsaacsLeader of the Music in the Community programme

Schoolchildren will perform alongside professional musicians and actors. The glasshouses will be filled with sounds of the night from around the world and striking video installations. The production is directed by award-winning artist Gerda Stevenson.

Science and history of sleep

Scientists have identified an increase in sleeplessness among UK children, owing to changes in eating and bedtime patterns, as well as earlier school start times and the use of electronic devices.

Studies have emphasised a correlation between healthy sleep patterns and educational attainment.

In the 17th century, the physic garden outside the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, the origin of the city’s current Botanic Garden, was an important centre for early developments in sleep science.

Plants and herbs from the garden were used to treat sleep disorders. Sleep science was a rapidly growing discipline and sleep was regarded as one of the core factors for leading a fulfilled life.