Tag Archives: Opera Camp

Zanaida Robles Inspires Students Through Opera

Zanaida Robles working with students during Opera Camp (2016)

Zanaida Robles working with students during Opera Camp (2016); Photo: Gennia Cui

She fell in love with music at the age of seven. Now, Zanaida Robles is an established singer, conductor, composer, and music instructor. As an LA Opera teaching artist, she’s bringing her experience and love for the music to work by inspiring the next generation of opera lovers.

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5 Moments We Loved From Then I Stood Up

The Opera Camp 2016 team with Carlotta Walls LaNier

The Opera Camp 2016 team with Carlotta Walls LaNier

Opera Camp is one of our favorite parts about summer at LA Opera. Watching more than 50 talented kids rehearse and perform opera in just two weeks never ceases to astound us. But, this year’s camp was extra special, because we premiered Eli Villanueva and Leslie Stevens’ Then I Stood Up, a youth opera honoring the contributions of young people to the Civil Rights Movement. From day one, kids not only engaged with opera, but also with civil rights history, in a way that connects past with the present, and brings people together through the power of opera.

While we loved everything about this year’s Opera Camp, here are some moments that really made this year’s program the best yet.

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All About That Opera Camp

Luz Duran (left) and Chaya Forman (right) during a break from Opera Camp 2016

Luz Duran (left) and Chaya Forman (right) during a break from Opera Camp 2016

Chaya Forman and Luz Duran love to sing. Chaya used to sing with the National Children’s Chorus, while Luz loves singing pop songs and can easily break into a rendition of Alicia Keyes’ “Girl On Fire.” They’re also both rising seventh graders and will spend two weeks of their summer at LA Opera’s Opera Camp, rehearsing and performing Then I Stood Up, a youth opera about the contributions of young people to the Civil Rights Movement.

It’s also their first year in the camp and they’re loving the experience so far.  We spoke with the girls to get a sense of what life is like for a first year camper.

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Opera Camp Never Gets Old

Samuel Bindschadler

Samuel Bindschadler

Envision yourself on stage. You’re in character, singing a role you love, and connecting with hundreds of audience members. You’ve worked hard for this moment and it’s more wonderful than you could have ever imagined. It also doesn’t feel like work, because you’ve enjoyed every minute.

This is how I feel every year during LA Opera’s summer youth program, Opera Camp. It’s some of the most rewarding “work” I’ve had the pleasure of doing. This year, I will participate in the camp for the fourth time, for which I am immensely grateful. Over the past few years, I have learned so much from amazing teaching artists and directors (particularly Eli Villanueva, Leslie Stevens, and Karen Hogle Brown) and even Maestro James Conlon.

The camp only lasts two weeks, but it is an intense two weeks. It never ceases to astound me how quickly the camp passes and how much I learn in such a short period of time. Few words can do justice to how working with Eli, Leslie, Karen, and all of the other magnificent performers and teaching artists enhance my (and other kids) knowledge of acting, singing, performance, and an artist’s responsibility. Whether through the lyrics of Hans Krása in Brundibár—in which, in 2011, I played “Little Joe,” a young man, who seeks out aid from unwilling adults to save his ailing mother—or Then I Stood Up—in which, this year, I will play the role of Pastor Jim—LA Opera always makes sure we learn both about performing and the history behind each opera.

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Creating Then I Stood Up

Then I Stood Up: A Civil Rights Cycle - Opera Camp 2015; Photo: Gennia Cui / The Future Collective

Then I Stood Up: A Civil Rights Cycle – Opera Camp 2015; Photo: Gennia Cui / The Future Collective

On August 6, LA Opera will premiere Then I Stood Up, a one-act youth opera that honors the contributions of young people to the Civil Rights Movement.  The opera—which will be presented as the culmination of a two-week intensive summer Opera Camp—was commissioned by LA Opera and composed and co-written by Eli Villanueva and Leslie Stevens (who have also written other operas for the camp). For two years, Villanueva and Stevens worked closely with the education and community engagement team and a number of consulting organizations (Facing History and Ourselves, Watts Labor Community Action Committee, California African American Museum) on Then I Stood Up. They crafted an opera that not only engages audience members, but also teaches campers vital lessons about social justice.

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Every Student Succeeds…and Arts Education Helps

I’ve been fortunate to have had many wonderful teachers in my life, including Joe Marrella, who produced one of the most influential shows I participated in – a production of Mary Zimmerman’s Metamorphoses. I still remember it fondly almost a decade later, because it was not just a high school theater show. Marrella challenged us to dig deeper into our characters, to see real life, current events connections to the play’s themes of love and greed that are universal. Yes, it was the arts, but it taught me that dramaturgy – really in depth research (the likes of which are done in any profession from journalism to opera to the scientific fields) – is vital to a successful performance.

I received an even greater sense of the importance of the arts in education when I started working as a journalist for LA Opera, just in time for Opera Camp. Today’s headlines are filled with stories of inequality, injustice and hate. Understanding our role in changing the world can be daunting. Through our annual Opera Camp program, LA Opera not only gives kids 9-17 the experience of staging an operatic performance, but also connects campers to the past and to today’s toughest issues. It brings context to headlines and shows them their impact on the world. (This past summer, campers got to visit the Japan-America National Museum, while working on The White Bird of Poston, an opera set in a WWWII Japanese internment camp.)

2015 Opera Campers Rehearsing "Then I Stood Up: A Civil Rights Cycle"

2015 Opera Campers Rehearsing Then I Stood Up: A Civil Rights Cycle

This further proved to me (and to those involved) that the arts are vital to raising well-rounded, socially conscious children.

Well-rounded.

That’s a word that sticks out to me, particularly in light of President Obama’s signing of a New Education Bill, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). It aims to provide all elementary and secondary students with fair and equal opportunities to achieve a high quality education, and these provisions for arts education will ensure that all students, including those in high poverty schools, have the opportunity to access arts education. This replaces the current national educational law, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), previously known as “No Child Left Behind.”

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Opera: A Community Treasure

Today, National Opera Week kicks off. Running through November 1, National Opera Week is a great opportunity to celebrate opera’s positive impact on communities around the country (and to a larger extent, the world). This got us thinking. What are some of the ways that opera influences community?

It brings us together.

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Guests enjoy Gianni Schicchi (2015) at Opera at the Beach

Putting together an operatic production is a feat of epic proportions. Since opera is an amalgamation of several art forms, various artists (singers, designers, writers, even filmmakers) join together for one singular purpose: to bring a story to life.

Yet, opera brings not only artists together. Opera is for all those willing to experience timeless stories, staged theatrically, and sung by the most engaging voices of our time. This can mean a night out in Downtown Los Angeles at the Dorothy Chandler or a date night at Santa Monica Pier for a live HD simulcast at Opera at the Beach.

It educates us about history, society, social responsibility, and just about anything else you can imagine.

 The cast of Nixon in China (1990); Photo Credit: Frederic Ohringer

The cast of Nixon in China (1990)

Did you know that there’s an opera about Richard Nixon called Nixon in China? Several operas are based on Shakespeare plays and Greek myths that tackle the big themes: love, humanity’s purpose, revenge. There are even short operas based on themes of social responsibility that form the crux of our Opera Camp program. Operas make people think in different ways; they can teach us to see the world through a new lens.

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LA Opera: A Teacher’s Paradise

Last week during Arts in Education Week, LA Opera teaching artists spent the day working with students on Orpheus, an original youth opera commissioned by LA Opera, written by librettist Matthew Leavitt and composer Nathan Wang, based on the Greek legend of Orpheus and Eurydice. This is part of a program called Secondary In-School Opera, a ten-week performance workshop that provides secondary schools with a team of teaching artists and directors to show students what it takes to perform an opera. Students meet with the artists ten times to work on the opera between August and October with a performance in November – an engaging experience to foster interest in the world of opera.

Resident Stage Director Eli Villanueva working with students as part of LA Opera's Secondary In-School Opera Program

Resident Stage Director Eli Villanueva working with students as part of LA Opera’s Secondary In-School Opera Program

For more than 20 years, LA Opera has been exploring the magic of opera with schools, teachers and students from kindergarten through college, all over Southern California. Secondary In-School Opera is just one of the many education programs that make LA Opera a teacher’s paradise. Others include Opera Camp, Opera-U, and LA Opera 90012.

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It’s Not Sleep Away Camp, It’s Opera Camp!

Katie and Annie Lee rehearse “Everything Breathes” from <em>The White Bird of Poston</em>. They are led here (off-camera) by teaching artists Leslie Stevens and Charlie Kim.

Katie and Annie Lee rehearse “Everything Breathes” from The White Bird of Poston. They are led here (off-camera) by teaching artists Leslie Stevens and Charlie Kim.

Today’s headlines are filled with stories of inequality, injustice and hate. Understanding our role in changing the world can be daunting. Through its annual Opera Camp program, LA Opera is teaching kids 9 – 17 how every action counts.

For the the past 15 years, LA Opera has hosted Opera Camp, a two-week immersive program where campers learn about opera – the artistry, the production, the skills – and prepares them to perform one. Every year, between 50 and 60 children and teens participate in the camp. … Continue reading

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