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Opera Idaho’s The Enchanted Forest

Opera Idaho

Opera Idaho presented Anna Young’s opera The Enchanted Forest to elementary and middle schools beginning October 1, 2018 through April 5, 2019. We utilized our Young Artists who were hired and brought to Boise for an entire season. These four professional Young Artists served as the leads for the school tour performances as well as understudies for the lead roles and chorus members for our mainstage operas. The Enchanted Forest is a choose-your-own adventure opera featuring music by iconic composers including Bizet, Gilbert & Sullivan, and Mozart. Students learn the basics of operatic storytelling as they cast the hero, villain, sidekick and love interest at the top of the show. Each performance depends on audience participation to find the right path and make the best choice.

Opera Idaho’s Education Outreach Program featured 51 performances and reached nearly 20,000 students from 65 different elementary/middle schools in Nampa, Meridian, Boise, Caldwell, Eagle, McCall, Cascade, and Pocatello and for the first time visited other rural cities in Southeastern Idaho including Grace, Lava, Fort Hall, Montpelier and Blackfoot.

The Essential Question that guided our projects’ focus was:

How do the arts, disciplines, contexts, and daily life inform creating, performing, and responding to music?

Opera is an all-encompassing art form featuring music, acting, movement, sets and costumes. Our goal with the education outreach program is to introduce students to opera and provide them the opportunity to see how all of the different artistic pieces come together to tell a compelling story.

Teaching materials in the form of a study guide prepped students for the performance informing them what opera is and providing information on the production and the composer. Prior to each performance, Opera Idaho’s artists taught students the various ways that audience members can respond and encouraged students to laugh and applaud where appropriate. Due to the interactive nature of this particular production, students had the opportunity to cast the characters and make decisions on how the story plays out by voting through applause. This interactive portion helped students understand the basics of operatic story-telling and how characters are cast based on voice type. The opera’s story included universal human themes that students could easily relate to including friendship, fear, sacrifice, loneliness and forgiveness. Students communicated that they laughed at silly moments with Bumble the bee, rooted for the Princess on her quest, felt sad when Bumble died, cheered when the Wizard brought Bumble back to life and were glad that in the end the dragon apologized and was forgiven.

At the conclusion of the project, students responded to questions related to the identified Standards:

At the end of the project, students were asked to reflect on the performance. We received letters from students providing their thoughts and answers on the following questions.

  • Who was your favorite character in the opera and why?
      • Students expressed that they liked Bumble because he was funny. They also liked the princess because she was brave and beautiful.
      • “I really liked the Bumble but when he stung the dragon and died I was so sad. I am glad that the wizard used his powers and Bumble came to life.”-Sarah
  • What was your favorite part in the opera?
      • “When the bee almost died. It added some tragic moments and drama. Second favorite was when the dragon was trying to eat the princess.”- Zana
      • Some students indicated that they loved the costumes. Others commented that their favorite part was the set and how colorful it was.
      • Many said they liked picking the characters.
  • What did you think about the opera?
      • “The opera was amazing. I thought I wasn’t going to like it but I loved it. I hope you can come back again.”- Misha
      • “I really liked your opera. The opera was entertaining to me. I learned that operas could give you different feelings.”- Brody
      • “I loved how you guys used body language and facial expressions to show how you felt. This, I think, was my first opera. Thank you so much for making it the best first opera ever!”- Breianna

Impact

The following is a note from a principal and a student who experienced our performances.

  • “I wanted to drop you a note of appreciation for Opera Idaho’s outreach program that brought “The Enchanted Forest” to our school.  Our students are still talking about the opera. Jefferson Elementary is a Title One school where 98% of our population are marked as economically disadvantaged. What struck me was that the kids were talking about the work possibilities that are out there.  Many of our students had no idea that they could be tailors, sound engineers, fundraisers, singers, performers, accountants, grant writers, music composers, accompanists, and set designers.  The thought that they could be working in a field that brings them joy is foreign to them.  Your opera, and almost more importantly, your talk and interaction with the students helped them see that the world is theirs if they set goals and persevere. I cannot thank you enough for the infusion of joy that you brought to their lives.  Many of our students live challenging lives and, for a time, you took them to a fantasy land that showed them alternatives.”- Ted Totorica, Principal at Jefferson Elementary
  • A 2nd grader named Jesse wrote us saying that he thought it was a great performance and asked for an audition to sing opera and listed his phone number. We gave his note to our Children’s Choruses Director and she contacted Jesse to see if he would want to audition to be in our Children’s Chorus.

Reflection

Overall, the project was a great success reaching the largest number of students to date in a variety of areas throughout the State of Idaho.

Due to the availability of the Young Artists for an entire season we were able to easily reschedule performances if a singer fell ill or for any unprecedented school closures. This had been difficult to do in past years because we did not have access to full-time artists. The Young Artists Program also enables us to grow the number of performances and schools reached each year.

Students seemed to enjoy the interactive portion of the opera being able to cast the characters and help them make decisions along the way based on their applause. Including them kept students engaged and invested throughout the performance. While each performance allowed students the opportunity to decide which artists portrayed which roles, we were very surprised to have found the students chose to cast the exact same way at every performance.

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