Tuesday, November 22, 2016

10 Opera Characters You Should Invite Over For Thanksgiving Dinner

Matt McNabb, Opera for All Teaching Artist

1) The Witch from Hansel and Gretel
She bakes a mean gingerbread!

2) The Queen of the Night from The Magic Flute
She believes that revenge is a dish best served cold. She’ll bring the ice cream.

3) Mime from The Ring Cycle
He’ll do all the washing up. He tends to complain though.

4) Falstaff from Falstaff
He’s the life of the party, kinda like your cool uncle who tells great stories.

5) King Caspar from Amahl and the Night Visitors
He’s got licorice! Licorice!

6) Brangane from Tristan and Isolde
She’ll mix up a lovely Thanksgiving beverage.

7) Don Giovanni
He knows how to throw a dinner party, talking statues and all.

8) Ophelia from Hamlet
She’ll provide sweets for the sweet table.

9) Musetta from La Boheme
We all need a diva at Thanksgiving dinner.

10) Cinderella from La Cenerentola

She knows her way around the kitchen. She’ll probably even vacuum when dinner is over.

Monday, November 21, 2016

What on Earth is a Teaching Artist?

Sara Litchfield, Opera for All Teaching Artist

Anyone aware of our program, or our education, might have noticed that our Opera for All instructors refer to themselves as teaching artists, which is..... what exactly? I'll tell you! According to the Association of Teaching Artists, a teaching artist is a "practicing professional artist with the complementary skills and sensibilities of an educator, who engages people in learning experiences in, through, and about the arts." In a sense, teaching artists are both working artists and working educators and not to toot our own horn, but we have four incredible teaching artists singing and sharing opera with our students this year.

The newest edition to our TA team is Diana Stoic Richardson. She is an incredibly talented soprano from Skokie IL and while this is her first full year as a teaching artist, she has had a lot of experience with opera outreach. She toured throughout the Midwest performing opera for children with both Opera Iowa and Opera for the Young. She is still actively performing for students, and singing the lead role of Lupe in Chicago Opera Playhouse's Once Upon a Windy City. This year, Diana is teaching at both Langford and Whistler Elementary. When she's not teaching or performing, she is spending time with her adorable son, Max! Here's a picture of Diana and I as Cinderella and her oh so wicked stepmother in Opera for the Young's production of Cinderella. If you couldn't tell, I'm the wicked stepmother.

Another fabulous soprano on our teaching team is the lovely Ms. Heather Keith! A native of Ohio, Heather has been involved with OFA for the past four years. Heather and I met when performing with Chicago Opera Playhouse's production of Hansel and Gretel, where I sang Hansel opposite her Gretel. Aside from singing and teaching, Heather is also an accomplished costume designer and director. This summer she directed Roman Fever with Opera On Tap while working as a teaching artist with Emerald City Theater Camp. This year, Heather is now a teaching artist with both Chicago Opera Theater and Lyric Opera of Chicago. Here is Heather with a pizza costume that she created for last year's Chicago themed operas at Chase Elementary.

And then of course, there is the only gentleman on our TA team, the incomparable Matt McNabb!
Matt and I were partners in crime last year, teaching together at both Field and Healy Elementary. This is his third year teaching with Opera for All. Matt also actively performs around the Chicago area and was last scene in the cast of Amour with Black Button Eyes Productions. He has also performed multiple cabarets at Davenports. Matt is truly one of the most organized and thoughtful teachers I've ever had the privilege of working with and below is a pic of Matt in Amour, he's the handsome devil on the left!

As for me, this is my fifth year teaching with Opera for All. I am also a teaching artist with Lyric Opera of Chicago and this year marks my 10th season as a member of the Chicago Symphony Chorus. I first realized the tremendous impact that opera can have on our young people while touring with Opera for the Young and Chicago Opera Playhouse. With these companies, I had the opportunity to sing such roles such as Hansel and the Witch in Hansel and Gretel and Tutty Fruity, the singing fruit basket (yeah you heard me right) in Beauty and the Beast. When I'm not teaching, I enjoy taking long walks with my dog Buster! Speaking of Tutty Fruity, here she is in the flesh!

So there you have it, our ridiculously talented team of teaching artists in a nutshell. We each bring something unique to the table based on our personal artistic experiences that we our able to share with our students. I feel so lucky to be a part of such a fabulous team!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Opera for All Artwork

Taylor Walters-Chapman

Here is a little artwork comprised of photos and music taken from our Opera for All program to brighten your day!

COT for Teens at Senn, Solorio, and Goode.

Emily Stonier, Education Intern

Over the past weeks, I have had the pleasure of visiting our COT for Teens program at three different high schools. I have been blown away by the talent I have seen in the students, as well as the passion and love they have for their art! Today, I'm going to give you a little break down of how all of our musical theater productions are going!

Solorio - Shrek

It’s always a blast to get to sit in on a rehearsal at Solorio! Currently, they’re working away at Shrek the musical, and they’re even ahead of schedule. They’ve got the entire show choreographed up until the first half, and the smiles of genuine joy on each student’s face is enough to make you know just how much fun each one of them is having. 

A few reasons Solorio Rehearsals are awesome:
  1. Shrek’s music! - You just can’t help but sing along and dance to all of these catchy melodies
  2. The friendships among the cast - During each break all the students have SO much fun talking with each other and forming relationships. It’s so exciting to watch life-long friendships being made.
  3. Choreography?! - I can’t tell you how awesome it is to see the songs finally coming to life! It’s been so cool to see the students transitioning from singing in chairs to standing up and acting the songs out through dances.
Goode - Little Shop of Horrors

What a unique and exciting show to be a part of! I can’t wait until the costumes and sets are made for this one, because I can already tell they’re going to be brilliant! it’s been awesome watching all of these student’s grow in their abilities through this process! We’re watching once shy students sing in new ranges, and improv the most creative scenes. 
A few reasons Goode rehearsals are awesome:
  1. Drama games, drama games, drama games! - It seems that Goode has an endless amount of fun at the beginning of each rehearsal. Every week I get to watch the student’s improv scenes and stories, play name games, and do all sorts of other fun stuff. It’s so exciting to see what they’ll come up with each week.
  2. Acting - blocking and line - reading has been the name of the game these last few weeks. It’s so fun to see the students not only reading their roles, but bringing them to life on stage! I am so excited to see what this show will look like when it is finished!
  3. A different kind of show! - I mean a show with a giant man-eating plant?! If that doesn’t excite you, I don’t know what will!
Senn - Legally Blonde

I have absolutely loved being able to be a part of one of my most favorite musicals! It is so exciting to watch students getting to study such a well written show. Let me tell you, I would have never thought a high school could do such a wonderful show justice, but Senn has sure proved me wrong. I’ve loved watching the students dance, sing, and act and I am so excited to see what the end result will look like!
A few reasons Senn rehearsals are awesome:
  1. Acting Cubes! - I was amazed and excited to see students working with acting cubes. As students climb on the blocks, and jump back down, the choreography is literally taken to another level. I love watching the levels among the cast.
  2. Voices - I am continually amazed at the talent I see at Senn. It is so exciting to see students sing so well! I can see their love for the words they sing in their eyes, and I can hear it in their well-trained voices.
  3. Facial Expressions - My favorite part of theater is watching actor’s facial expressions. The best way to take a performance to the next level is to not only sing or speak words, but to express them through an actor’s eyes and smile. I've loved getting to see the students at Senn as they apply this principle.

Overall, Our teens are doing such a wonderful job! I cannot sing their praises enough, and I cannot wait to see their shows these next few weeks!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Opera for All Video

Taylor Walters-Chapman, Education Intern

What happens when we give our students some Opera?

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Top 10 Experiences for Opera for All

Diana Stoic, Opera for All Teaching Artist

Meet Whistler Elementary in Maple Park and Langford Community Academy in Englewood.

1. Both schools were in for a treat during their fieldtrip to the Peggy Notebaert Museum.  The staff at the museum brought out a fox snake for them to look at and learn about.  They also had the opportunity to pet the snake!  Many of the students touched a snake for the first time.  The 4th grade teacher from Langford, Ms. Slayton, will never forget her experience.  She can now cross petting a snake off of her bucket list.

2. Whistler 4th grader, Kaytlin, wrote, “My favorite part of the field trip was the Butterfly Haven because when the doors opened it felt like I went to a forest.”  

3. Another favorite exhibit from the fieldtrip was “Weather to Climate: Our Changing World.”  Madison from Whistler explains, “I got to fake I was on the news.  The museum gave me words, a coat, and even a mic.  They had a different screen where they showed weather."

4. Last week all students at Langford Community Academy had the opportunity to watch the performers of Chicago Opera Playhouse perform “Once Upon a Windy City”.  Along with being the 4th and 5th grade teaching artist, last week I also played the role of performing artist. 

5. The students in the audience were active participants in the show: we had the entire school sing along to the theme song, four students from 4th grade held pizza boxes during the pizza eating contest, everyone snapped along with Al Capone, and also booed him during the singing competition.

6. When asked how the students like Once Upon a Windy City, 6th grade student Michah said he enjoyed it “because it was funny and entertaining”.   Destiny liked the opera “because it was very fun with the costumes and music.”

7. When asked how it felt to sing with professionals from Once Upon a Windy City, Tavion from 4th grade shared that “it made him feel like a professional.”  Gavin felt that “it was good and the best thing in my life.”  Gavin’s classmate Brian expressed that “when I was singing with the professionals it made me feel like I was a part of something.” 

8. Whistler Opera sneak peak- Under the Sea. 

The Sharks are eating all the food and leaving the dolphins tired and hungry.  Will the Whale King and his Crab sidekick help the dolphins and get the sharks to live peacefully with the animals in their ecosystem?  Cue the magical mermaid tail to save the day.

9. Langford’s Opera sneak peak

There has been a 10-year animal war in the Jungle.  The outside world recently started cutting down the trees.  After receiving wise words from the Queen Tree, will the animals work together to save their home and end the war?

10. This week we began working on this year’s theme song “One World.”  The students learned about the fundamentals of good singing.  We discussed good posture, breath support, and put them into practice with warm-ups and vocal exercises.  The students at both schools are enthusiastically learning Solfege (a method used to teach pitch by assigning syllables to notes in a scale).