Monday, October 21, 2013

Chicago Opera Playhouse at OFA

Michael Orlinsky, Opera for All Teaching Artist

This year with Chicago Opera Playhouse we have been performing Hansel and Gretel for schools, and we (Students and Performers) are all having a great time!  The production is done in English and is adapted to fit the general assembly time. 
Throughout the semester we have been teaching the students in the “Opera For All” program the Gingerbread Chorus at the end of Hansel and Gretel.  In performance, the students are generally watching, but toward the end they get to stand up and sing with professional operatic singers.  This is an incredibly enriching process for both the performers and students.  The students get a taste of culture and music, and from a performers perspective; I get to explore the fresh uninhibited reactions within the audience.  It is a very telling experience and can be rather frightening as a performer because the kids will be sincere in their reactions for better or worse.  If you’re not working up to their standard you’ll see that in their reactions!

Chicago Opera Playhouse Cast
                As a Teaching Artist and performer I am able to associate much more with my students.  Last year I sang “The Wolf” in Jonathan Stinson’s The Knightly News with Chicago Opera Playhouse, but I wasn’t a Teaching Artist yet.  The difference between being a one time presence for the students and performing for them as someone they know and can associate with is tremendous.  I think it’s important for them to understand that the arts are within their reach and important.  If they see someone whom they associate with often as a teacher and then see another facet of their profession they can understand what they may be capable as well.  Through history, young people have learned through storytelling and the tradition of storytelling is less and less prevalent in our society.  This program opens their mind to the learning process in new ways.
COT Teaching Artists, Michael Orlinsky (Center) and Jennifer D'Agostino (Right)
                Our performances with Chase Elementary were very fun.  The students were well prepared and were engaged in the performance.  During the morning performance they were very attentive and the classes joining in the chorus did a superb job of singing.  The encore evening performance was well attended by parents and students alike.  The parents seemed to be enjoying themselves as well.  The students during the evening performance were excitable and chattered a bit throughout the performance.  Regardless, they were certainly appreciating the show.  They also sang very well for their parents.  This program is immensely important and effective in the schools.  It really opens up the eyes of these young people to opera and how approachable it can be.  The wall between them and this enriching art form is torn down with this show.
Chase OFA students after the performance

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