Opera stars reveal their secrets to help long-term Covid sufferers

English National Opera is teaching patients how lullabies can calm symptoms

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People suffering from long-term Covid symptoms are being taught special breathing exercises used by some of the world’s best opera singers, to help ease their breathlessness and anxiety.

The English National Opera and Imperial College London developed a programme to help the patients, and opera stars will perform songs to show how they benefit from the techniques.

Mentors from ENO Breathe hold online workshops and show how lullabies can soothe symptoms.

“Medicine and the arts have come to understand that they have more in common than they knew,” ENO chairman Harry Brunjes said.

"ENO Breathe … is the unprecedented interface of the art of medicine and the science of the arts.

Before the latest announcement by Boris Johnson, about a second Coronavirus pandemic lockdown, opera-lovers await the start of a rehearsal of the first socially-distanced performance by English National Opera (ENO) in the London Coliseum which has remained closed throughout summer, on 24th October 2020, in London, England. Musicians and singers on stage are separated appropriate to government restrictions and audience members are seated with same household groups. The Marriage of Figaro was ENO's last show on 14th March, and the Coliseum has stayed closed until now. The UKs theatre ticket revenue contributes £1.28bn to the nations economy, in which there are 290,000 jobs (70% are at risk) so the government has announced a financial rescue package for the Arts industry, a £1.15bn support for cultural organisations in England that is made up of £880m in grants and £270m of repayable loans. The 2,395-seat Coliseum (1904) is a Baroque revival (Wrenaissance) style theatre, built as one of West End's largest and most luxurious variety theatres. (Photo by Richard Baker / In Pictures via Getty Images)
Patients were shown ENO techniques to tackle breathlessness and anxiety. Getty Images

Those taking part have one-on-one mentor conversations and six-week online group sessions with professional singing specialists.

They are taught the methods opera singers use.

To achieve the physical co-ordination required for singing, opera singers use emotional connections and imagery, rather than giving their bodies explicit physiological instructions.

“The ENO are committed to making a difference to the lives of people and communities recovering from Covid-19, using our unique skills and resources in ways that are relevant and useful, and that matter to people,” said the ENO’s Jenny Mollica.

“Following our successful pilot programme, we are hugely proud to be able to roll out ENO Breathe nationally.”

In a six-week trial project with Imperial College Healthcare, 13 patients with continuing symptoms were shown the ENO techniques.

By the end of the programme, 90 per cent reported reduced levels of breathlessness and 91 per cent felt their levels of anxiety had dropped.

“Breathe has been fantastic. It has really aided me enormously with my breathlessness and also my anxiety a little around reintegrating myself back into society,” participant Richard said.

All of the pilot participants said they would continue using the techniques and 91 per cent felt that taking part had given them increased confidence in managing their symptoms.

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 24: Artists of the company in the English National Opera's production of Giacomo Puccini's "Madam Butterfly" at  the London Coliseum on February 24, 2020 in London, England. (Photo by Robbie Jack#Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images)
The English National Opera wants to extend its Covid programme. Getty Images

All of them said they would “definitely recommend” the programme to others experiencing long-term Covid symptoms.