Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Winter Scenes Performance

Laura Koroski, Education Intern at Chicago Opera Theater

As the Education Intern, most of my work is behind-the-scenes. I have a number of times gotten into the three schools that host the Opera For All program, to observe and help in the classroom, on field trips, and with the Cinderhood performances. But as COT for Teens is a much smaller program that operates on a simpler platform, there's been no reason for me to be a support system.

So it wasn't until their Winter Scenes performance on November 30 at the Museum of Contemporary Art that I got to see what they'd been up to all fall. And they have achieved quite a lot. From being a bunch of teens brought together from all over the city, they've become one group, in social interactions as well as in performance. Though I don't have previous standards to compare to, I can only imagine the progress they've made in their singing and acting.

Their first piece, from Luisa Miller, proved that they weren't intimidated by foreign languages, even the complexities of singing in Italian. The Bell Chorus from Pagliacci was a sweet piece with wonderfully staged and executed crowd choreography. The girls performed a very amusing rendition of "It Can't be Possible" from Donizetti's Elixir of Love, and the boys followed with "Women, Women, Women" from The Merry Widow.

There were three songs from South Pacific, in preparation for the students' spring production. "I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair" was belted out with much sass, and followed by "There is Nothing Like a Dame," much to the amusement of the audience. The performance finished with a choral version of "Some Enchanted Evening," sung with such feeling that you had to have a heart of stone not to be moved by it. It was a fantastic performance, brilliantly directed by Chris Richard and Marta Johnson. I'm excited for what the students will give us in April with the full production of South Pacific!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Preparing for the Winter Preview

Amanda Compton, COT Teaching Artist at Reilly Elementary

This week at Reilly Elementary was both challenging and exhilarating. We worked with the students to prepare them for the upcoming Winter Preview on December 17 by practicing their solfege scale, a musical vocabulary song set to the melody of "Twinkle, twinkle little star," and began working on "Feliz Navidad," complete with dancing! Many of the children come from a Spanish background, so they were very excited about our song choice. Linden asked how her pronunciation was, and one little girl said with a shy smirk, "It's ok..."

As we near the end of the semester, we are beginning to lay the groundwork for our spring production. Our goal during these last class sessions is to ignite the kids' creativity in crafting their own storyline based on the theme they already invented, "college and high school students in New York.". So, we had them play a collaborative story improvisation game where we sat in a circle and each student built upon the story one sentence at a time. Tuesday's class had some trepidation at first, saying practically the same thing the student before them said, but their interest was piqued when someone introduced a love interest and suddenly the kids were wriggling in their seats in anticipation of their turn.

The highlight of this week was the performance of "Cinderhood," in which the OFA kids got to play a special part. They sang, "in a mixed up, turned around, jumbled, inside out story," to punctuate the characters' confusion on stage. The kids were incredibly excited, and told me how they had bragged to their friends about their part in the show. The Reilly violin students participated too! The show was a big hit, and during the question and answer session at the end, many of the students not enrolled in OFA expressed extreme interest in getting involved next semester. This program has clearly already made an impact at Reilly, and I am confident that our endeavors in the spring will only increase students' passion for learning about opera!