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Venus and Adonis

Venus and Adonis is a short opera by John Blow, a contemporary of Henry Purcell.  It was composed for the court of Charles II and is the oldest surviving English opera.  It is particularly interesting because it contains parts for children.

These resources provide teachers with ideas to introduce the opera to Key Stage 2 classes (children aged 7 to 11); they explore some of its themes, and look at what life was like for the children who performed the opera before King Charles in the 1680s.


The resources consist of:

  • Music from the time of Charles II to sing and play, including downloadable sheet music, recorded performances and backing tracks.
  • Practical activities using drama, music and visual art to learn about aspects of Restoration history.
  • Ideas to help teachers and their classes compose a 'missing scene' from the opera.
  • Guidelines to perform a Restoration dance.
To explore the resources, follow these links:

  • Venus and Adonis - Background information
    Information for teachers, putting the opera in context and providing background to its composition and performance.
  • Songs and instrumental music
    An extract from the opera to sing, with folksongs and instrumental music from the late seventeenth century. Includes sheet music especially arranged for children, recorded performances and backing tracks.
  • Activity pack 1: Musical news
    Activities exploring the role of music in spreading the news during the seventeenth century. Includes singing, creative writing, visual art and historical enquiry.
  • Activity pack 2: School life in Restoration England
    Based on a scene from Venus and Adonis, these activities look at what Restoration school life might have been like, with ideas for recreating a typical reading lesson and a look at learning Latin through pictures.
  • Activity pack 3: Learn a Restoration dance
    Instructions for performing one of Playford's Country Dances and the recorded music to accompany it; sheet music of the original melody, and a simplified version for young instrumentalists.
  • Activity pack 4: The wild boar scene
    During the opera, tragedy strikes when Adonis returns fatally wounded by a wild boar. These activities use a folksong about a wild-boar hunt to inspire composition of the scene John Blow did not write.