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Who Wants to Be an Opera Star?

Opera Idaho

Instead of presenting an opera in schools, due to COVID-19 school closures we presented an online program: Who Wants to Be an Opera Star? Written by and used with permission of Paula Fowler, Dir. of Education, Utah Opera, the 40-minute program was offered free to schools throughout Idaho. 23000 students watched the online video. The program itself, a pastiche using music from different operas, was a bit of a departure from recent programs, which have been for a number of years either shortened versions of standard operas adapted for children or newly-composed operas for children. Directors Fernando Menendez & Nik Dumas chose a game show format to present the opera. Performers were Naomi Spinelli (mezzo), Jena Carpenter (sop), Andrew Peck (ten), David Le (bar) and Betsi Hodges (accomp).

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 with an 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 various composers from which the music was drawn. The opera gave a good introduction to the types of music found in an opera, from solos (arias) to duets, trios and quartets. Terms used to describe opera were cleverly woven into the format of the dialogue between gameshow host and participants.

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

With the adapted delivery method, we were not able to experience first-hand the reaction of students. We did receive comments via e-mail, some of which are:

East Elementary School, Mountain Home
I really appreciate that you are doing this outreach. It is so important to me that children have the opportunity to experience the performing arts, especially because we don’t have any community theatre here in Mountain Home. Thank you so much!

White Pine Elementary, Boise
This is a much needed help for lesson planning during the pandemic. I’m also grateful that we can share opera in the schools at a time when we cannot hold assemblies. Thank you!!

Ustick Elementary, Boise
I very much appreciate this as it ties in beautifully for both 4th and 5th and evaluating a `musical work`.

Impact

We were pleased that schools from areas in Idaho previously not served by Opera Idaho were able to participate. This was possible because of the virtual distribution. We’ll consider incorporating a virtual option as we return to in-school presentations.

Reflection

The game show format was a big hit. We will return to a standard opera next year but will look at another opera of this sort for the following season. We will once again have our four Emerging Artists, nationally recruited singers who are a part of Opera Idaho from September through April.

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