Chicago Opera Theater's (COT) Opera For All education outreach program began its 13th year in Chicago Public Schools this August. The program is returning to Dewitt Clinton Elementary, Lionel Hampton Fine & Performing Arts School, and Reilly Elementary. This year, the program is able to bring opera to more students than ever before, adding Chase Elementary, Cameron Elementary, St. Vincent Center, and the Marillac Center to the roster of participating schools. With such an expansion, Opera For All now educates more than 600 students from second to sixth grade.
The after-school programs at St. Vincent Center and the Marillac Center have been generously funded by an anonymous donor on behalf of Ms. Sue SanGiacomo. Opera For All is a year-long residency program that places artists in Chicago area schools to guide students through a comprehensive process of creating their own opera. During weekly 50-minute workshops, Opera For All Teaching Artists will introduce the students to all of the elements needed to create an opera. Students are instructed in music composition, writing lyrics, dancing, design, singing, and performance. The program culminates in students from each school staging their very own original work.
This year's theme – "Imagination and Exploration through Fantasy, Magic, and Space" – is inspired by COT's fall production of Mozart's The Magic Flute. In September, students will attend a dress rehearsal of The Magic Flute and visit the Adler Planetarium. Then, with the help of a lyricist, they will turn their ideas into their own operas! Students will get the chance to share their work with family and friends in a December Winter Showcase. Opera for All students will also see a professional touring production of "Nightly News" by Chicago Opera Playhouse, as well as a Sing & Share visit by COT Young Artists. With the exposure to these various components of opera and the mentorship of Chicago professionals, students receive the basis for a life-long interest in the arts.
"I love the excitement and amazement seen on the students' faces when the teaching artists sing for them and introduce them to acting & singing games!" said COT Manager of Education and Outreach Linden Christ. "It is inspiring to see the pride and joy that overflows from all the opera students when they share their opera creation with their school!"
OFA's new partnership with the St. Vincent Center, and the Marillac Center represents an exciting new direction for Opera for All. Both centers are after-school programs, and take students from a wide assortment of Chicago Public Schools. The new collaboration between COT and these programs will give children from across Chicago access to the arts, greatly expanding the scope of the program.
The current success and expansion of Opera For All has been a goal for the program since its beginning in 2000, one of Brian Dickie's first projects as General Director. Linden Christ now manages the program, and is pleased to be backed by the full support of COT's new General Director Andreas Mitisek, whose commitment to education and bringing opera to all will surely serve to strengthen the program in the years to come.
"Art nurtures our creative instincts, stimulates learning, and fosters understanding-explicit or implicit. We at COT are unspeakably proud and happy that we can share the experience of opera with these children, many of whom have very few opportunities to explore the arts." said Mitisek.
Founded in 1974 by Alan Stone, Chicago Opera Theater (COT) has carved a significant place for itself in the operatic life of Chicago and has reached an audience of hundreds of thousands through its mainstage performances, community engagement, education programs in Chicago Public Schools, as well as its renowned Young Artist Program. Since Brian Dickie's appointment as General Director in 1999, COT has evolved as an opera company that is young, fresh, and critically acclaimed. The 2013 season welcomes a new General Director, Andreas Mitisek, who also holds that position at Long Beach Opera, where he has earned a reputation for producing the bold and unexpected.
Chicago Opera Theater's 2012 Season concludes at the Harris Theater with Mozart's The Magic Flute, playing September 15, 19, 21, and 23. The 2013 Season, beginning February 23rd, includes Philip Glass' The Fall of the House of Usher, Ástor Piazzolla's María de Buenos Aires, and Giuseppe Verdi's Joan of Arc. For tickets or more information, go to ChicagoOperaTheater.org or call 312.704.8414.