Season Highlights from Opera Colorado’s Education Programs

June 21, 2022 | By Opera Colorado | Education
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Students sit in the lobby of the Ellie Caulkins Opera House. Three students sit with their arms around each other in the first row with four other students sitting behind them.
A group of students enjoying a visit to the Ellie Caulkins Opera House.
Photo: Opera Colorado/Jamie Kraus

By Angelica DiIorio

The past two years have been difficult for everyone, especially our young people who experienced many changes and uncertainty with their schooling. From figuring out how to learn online to the anxiety of the world around them, today’s youth have experienced a lot of growing pains. In the face of challenges, the arts often provide comfort; you can explore your creativity, feel connected to others, and learn to channel your concerns into something beautiful.

At Opera Colorado, we believe access to an arts education in schools allows students to develop the tools they need to succeed. This year, our Education & Community Engagement Team brought programs to over 9,000 students across the state of Colorado. Let’s look at some of the opera experiences they have shared this year!

OPERA ON TOUR

Three performers stand in front of a backdrop with a painted pirate ship in the background. Two have their arms spread wide as they sing, and one stands to the side. The backs of the audiences’ heads are in the bottom left corner.
The 2021-22 Artists in Residence performing Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance.
Photo: Opera Colorado/Jamie Kraus

From the Ellie Caulkins Opera House in Denver to Gunnison, nearly 200 miles away, the Education & Community Engagement Team has traveled far to bring two abridged operas to schools and communities. Our Opera on Tour productions are specifically designed for school-aged children. Cherity Koepke, Director of Education & Community Engagement, abridges the operas so they are only an hour long and translates them into English when necessary. The 2021-22 Artists in Residence performed The Barber of Seville and The Pirates of Penzance, Opera Colorado’s first original production for this program in over four years.

Learn more about how The Pirates of Penzance was created for the Opera on Tour program>>

This program reached over 4,000 students and communities, giving them a taste of opera. In fact, one audience loved The Barber of Seville so much that they sang “Figaro, Figaro, Figaro!” from their cars to our Artists in Residence as they walked down the street!

STUDENT DRESS REHEARSALS

Two students sit in the audience. Two are looking at the performance’s program book.
A group of students in the audience for a performance of Carmen.
Photo: Opera Colorado/Jamie Kraus

Each of our mainstage performances is proceeded by a rehearsal for an audience of students. These young people experienced a full dress rehearsal of Tosca, The Shining, and Carmen with elaborate sets, costumes, and a full orchestra! They also have the opportunity to enjoy a few behind-the-scenes moments, like watching the sets be changed between acts.

Prior to the performance, schools are given a guidebook for the opera explaining the story, its history, and a bit about the production. To make sure students really understand the opera before they attended, lessons related to the performance for all ages are included. One teacher noted, “The fact the materials were already CAS [Colorado Academic Standards] aligned is beyond helpful. The students were so excited after the performance, it was great to have related activities ready in class to help reinforce what they saw.”

Read the guidebooks for yourself>>

At The Shining the students experienced another special event. After the performance, they attended a Q&A with members of the production team to learn more about the stage techniques and technology used to make special effects. The students learned how to use stage lights to make interesting shadows and how stage combat is choreographed to make the action seem real without harming the performers. One of the attending teachers said her students “…were wowed by the performance, but truly informed by the tech talk after. That was such an incredible opportunity to learn about what goes into creating the experience they got to enjoy.”

CARMEN STUDENT MATINEE

One woman with a white blouse and full red skirts, stands in the center with her hand behind her ear. A crowd of townspeople stand behind her.
Mercédès, performed by Kira Dills-DeSurra, acts as a narrator in the Student Matinee of Bizet’s Carmen.
Photo: Opera Colorado/Jamie Kraus

Students also saw a matinee of Bizet’s Carmen, performed by our Artists in Residence, with a few modifications to make it special for a young audience. A narrator was added to tell the story, so even our youngest opera-goers could follow along. Over 700 students attended the matinee, and, for many of them, it was their first opera. Many kids might be hesitant to experience this art form, but it turned out to be a very rewarding new experience. One teacher shared, “My kids have never seen an opera and weren’t sure they wanted to…But they LOVED this performance and were really drawn in by the synthesis of horror and opera. It was a great experience for them and will make them more aware/open to attending opera in the future.”

There is truly nothing more genuine than a kid’s reaction to something. Some of the top reactions from our high school students seeing Carmen include clapping as Carmen tells Don José to leave her alone, and a resounding “Oh, dam!” when Don José pulls out his knife. Their enthusiasm was palpable and made the performance even more special.

 

WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD?

A little boy stands on the right and looks in awe at a red parrot puppet being held by one of our Artists in Residence wearing a three-corner pirate hat.
Children enjoying Storytime Sessions at Anythink Libraries.
Photo: Opera Colorado/Jamie Kraus

Interested in bringing one of our programs to your community? Many of these come back every year, and some new experiences will be added next season!

Our Artists in Residence will return to present the tale of absurd adventures and improbable paradoxes with The Pirates of Penzance but also tug at your heartstrings with a modernized version of Romeo & Juliet.

The Student Matinee will be in the fall this year, so plan to get your tickets a little earlier! The tale of the jaded jester Rigoletto protecting his family at all costs will be performed for students on November 10, 2022, at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House.

Learn more about the Student Matinee of Rigoletto>>

The Education Team has many other programs available for a wide range of ages that focus on early literacy through music, teambuilding, stagecraft, professional singing, wigs and makeup, costumes, and fight choreography.

Learn more about all our Education & Community Engagement Programs>>

We continue our commitment to furthering arts education in Colorado and look forward to seeing where these programs take the Education & Community Engagement Team next, and to hearing all the sweet stories of our young audiences enjoying the music!

 

Questions about our education programs? Feel free to contact us by email at education@operacolorado.org or by phone at 303.778.7350.

Did you know that Opera Colorado offers partial scholarships for ANY of our educational programs? Scholarships are available on a first come, first serve basis. To apply, please fill out and return the appropriate application: School Scholarship or Community Scholarship.

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