Disabled singer from Dagenham cast as coach in Olympic opera

A disabled man trained by a leading opera singer has landed a major part in a piece of music celebrating the Paralympics this summer.

Baritone David Rushbrook, 52, will perform as the “coach” helping athletes with learning disabilities in the new opera Gold Run next month.

David, of Valence Wood Road, Dagenham, was trained by former Metropolitan Opera of New York singer turned music therapist Margaret Lobo.

The show, opening at Glyndebourne opera house in Sussex on April 1, will celebrate the return of sportsmen and women with learning disabilities to the Olympics after a 12-year absence this summer.

David has sung since the age of six but is also a keen sportsman who has won gold medals in the Special Olympics held for British sportsmen and women with learning disabilities.

He said: “It’s quite good. I’m looking forward to the show. It’s really hard. I’m developing.”

David has spent an hour each day for a year rehearsing the opera, which is to go on tour in London, Brighton and Chichester.

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Glyndebourne musical director, James Redwood, trained David at St Mary’s church in Grafton Road, Dagenham, because of its acoustics.

Gold Run will include film and feature an elevated 5ft head sculpture of David on stage.

His aunt Joyce Rushbrook, 78, said: “I am proud of all he has done during his life. Having a disability is not easy. He has really used his talents and bettered himself. He has done very well.”

David was featured in a BBC documentary introduced by Paul McCartney in the Nineties, called the Power of Music.

He took a break from music at the end of the Nineties, started competing in the Special Olympics and won medals in shot put, 100m and bowling.

David also helps with recycling at the Osborne Partnership charity in Osborne Square, Dagenham, which provides employment opportunities for disabled workers.

Paralympians with learning disabilities were banned after it was discovered most of Spain’s basketball team did not have a disability in the 2000 Sydney Games, but they will compete again this summer.