Tag Archives: Community

GIVING TUESDAY: BOOSTING CHILDREN’S CONFIDENCE THROUGH THE ARTS

Giving Tuesday - Boosting Confidence

Tomorrow is Giving Tuesday, a nationwide day of giving back. As a non-profit organization, LA Opera relies on donations from individuals like you to share the power of the performing arts within our community.

LA Opera’s Education and Community Engagement programs touch the lives of more than 140,000 Angelenos annually. Below is a story of some of the young lives being affected.

Help make programs like these possible. Visit LAOpera.org/Donate

Eli Villanueva

Eli Villanueva

For the past fifteen years, Eli Villanueva has worked with LA Opera’s Education and Community Engagement team to bring opera to the Los Angeles Community. An accomplished performer, stage director, and composer, Villanueva has performed in and composed several works for the company’s various education programs (Opera Camp, Opera Tales, and In-School Opera).

Through his work, Villanueva strives to impact how children see the world and offer them the same excitement he had when he first “caught the opera bug.”

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Season’s Greetings from LA Opera

Holiday Music Tour

On December 5, LA Opera kicks off its holiday music Tour with a recital at City of Hope. This is the fifth year of the beloved program that brings holiday cheer to patients at healthcare facilities across Los Angeles County, including Shriners Hospitals for Children, UCLA Harbor Medical Center, and Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center. While the tour brings beautiful music to audiences across LA County that celebrate the season, the recitals have a healing effect on those who need it most.

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Leroy Villanueva On Bringing Opera To Schools

Leroy Villanueva (left) and Charlie Kim (right) in The White Bird of Poston (2016)

Leroy Villanueva (left) and Charlie Kim (right) in The White Bird of Poston (2016)

Every year, LA Opera brings opera into schools through its Secondary In-School (SISO) program, through which students and teaching artist join forces over the course of 10 weeks to produce an opera. This innovative and influential program shares the art form with kids across Los Angeles. It’s an enriching experience for both students, teachers, and the artists involved in the program, including baritone Leroy Villanueva.

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Join Us for Veterans Circle Days

Veterans Circle

Veterans Circle

LA Opera believes that experiencing the arts is essential to the understanding of our own humanity – and should be made accessible to everyone. To this end, LA Opera’s Education and Community Engagement Department is continuing the innovative Community Circle seating program, which has increased our service to students, low-income seniors, and a diverse array of other communities throughout Southern California and beyond.

Through Community Circle, carefully selected groups are invited to experience opera at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion at a significantly reduced price and, at times, for free.

At every performance, 170 tickets in the orchestra section are set aside to accommodate these special groups, supplementing the extensive education and community outreach initiatives our company does throughout the year.

As part of this year’s Community Circle initiative, LA Opera has designated two matinee performances as Veterans’ Circle days.

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Run, Don’t Walk, and Sign Up for Noah’s Flood

Noah's Flood (2015)

Noah’s Flood (2015)

Have you ever wanted to perform in an opera surrounded by artists, friends, and family? Here’s your chance. For the eleventh year, LA Opera and the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels will produce a community opera production of Benjamin Britten’s Noah’s Flood (Noye’s Fludde), conducted by James Conlon.

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LA Opera Performs Operas…In Secondary Schools

Secondary-In-School Opera

Secondary-In-School Opera

Teens and opera – there’s a connection there. You might think that teenagers in Los Angeles would never think about it or avoid it, assuming it’s old fashioned and boring. But, LA Opera is challenging that narrative by bringing opera directly to Los Angeles’ secondary school students.

Every year LA Opera’s Education and Community Engagement’s program, Secondary In-School Opera (SISO), offers an original opera specifically commissioned for middle and high school students. On as many as 10 campuses across all five Los Angeles districts, students work together as an ensemble to build critical music and performance skills, under the direction of professional teaching artists from LA Opera. During one class period a week, for ten weeks each fall they put together an opera. On performance day a truck rolls up to the campus with sets, costumes, technical equipment, and more. Students are joined by several professional opera singers and orchestra members for their final dress rehearsal and a stirring performance for their peers, parents and special invited guests.

If bringing this art form to students was all SISO offered, it would be amazing.

But wait, there’s more!

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Who Networks at the Opera? College Students.

Member of the 15/16 season College Advisory Committee

Member of the 15/16 season College Advisory Committee

LA Opera has a robust array of programs that get kids, teens, and young adults excited about opera. Several of these programs – Operawise, Opera Prep – bring students to the opera to meet with the company’s talented arts professionals. While these programs offer students the ability to network with people in the arts community, another program – the College Advisory Committee – takes networking to the next level. It offers students the opportunity to gain leadership skills while they help promote a major arts institution.

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Opera Prep Shows Students Future Career Possibilities

Lee Blakeley (director of last season's Madame Butterfly) talks to Opera Prep students about his career.

Lee Blakeley (director of last season’s Madame Butterfly) talks to Opera Prep students about his career.

LA Opera has several education and community programs geared towards teachers and students and offering them a taste of the many careers students can pursue in the future. Opera Prep is one of those programs. It offers teachers the opportunity to bring their students to the opera and introduce them to some of the most talented professionals in the arts world. … Continue reading

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Opera For Educators Kicks Off With A Macbeth Seminar

Plácido Domingo and a group of teachers during Teacherpalooza (2015)

Plácido Domingo and a group of teachers during Teacherpalooza (2015)

On August 27, LA Opera’s award-winning Opera for Educators series returns with a day devoted to exploring our season opener, Giuseppe Verdi’s Macbeth. This program explores opera from interdisciplinary points of view with a diverse group of engaging professionals and academics. Teachers gain insight about Macbeth, the history of opera as an art form and as a form of social commentary, as well as learn about opera in general. Opera for Educators is a place for teachers to be inspired by rich content and fall in love with opera, while also discovering how opera can be used to integrate arts into classroom curriculum. Click here for more information and to purchase tickets.

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How do you expand an impactful program?

Teaching artists prepping for LA Opera's Elementary In-School Opera Program

Teaching artists and LA Opera staff prepping for LA Opera’s Elementary In-School Opera Program

LA Opera believes in sharing the transformative power of opera with the Los Angeles community. As a result, the company places education and community engagement at the core of its mission. In the past sixteen years, LA Opera has more than tripled its outreach programs. The programs have expanded beyond their original target, K-12 students, to serve many more members of the Los Angeles community, including teachers, veterans, families and seniors. Whether at LA Opera’s home in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion or in neighborhoods across Los Angeles County, LA Opera remains committed to maintaining and growing the programs that reach hundreds of thousands in the community. How does a non-profit build and maintain such programs? Well, one reason is partnerships.

While the generous support of many donors and foundations has helped make these programs possible, to further extend its programming and to better serve the community, LA Opera adopted partnerships as a vital strategy.

“We asked ourselves, ‘What does LA Opera have that is so beautiful and unique and what are the many ways somebody needs it?’ Opera is a collaborative art form. Partnerships reflect our art form, so it is only natural that this model would help further LA Opera’s mission of sharing opera with the Los Angeles community,” says Stacy Brightman, Vice President of Education and Community Engagement.

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Eli Villanueva and LA Opera Boost Children’s Confidence Through the Arts

Eli Villanueva

Eli Villanueva

For the past fifteen years, Eli Villanueva has worked with LA Opera’s Education and Community Engagement team to bring opera to the Los Angeles Community. An accomplished performer, stage director, and composer, Villanueva has performed in and composed several works for the company’s various education programs (Opera Camp, Opera Tales, and In-School Opera) and has also directed many community productions, including the popular operas staged annually at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. Through his work, Villanueva strives to impact how children see the world and offer them the same excitement he had when he first “caught the opera bug.”

A Young Eli in the Boy's Choir

A Young Eli Villanueva in the Boy’s Choir

Villanueva caught the opera bug at age 12. At the time, the New York City Opera would tour in Los Angeles, staging a few operas a year. Villanueva performed with the California Boys Choir and through this choir was cast as a member of the children’s chorus in Puccini’s La Bohème. “I got to actually stand next to operas singers, which I thought was the most amazing thing,” recalls Villanueva. He continues, “I truly feel that it’s that experience of being next to an opera singer that really changes a child’s perspective of the whole art form.”

Villanueva’s work with the Education & Community Engagement team focuses on changing people’s perspective of opera.

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How LA Opera’s Professional Development Program Helped Me Get Kids Excited About Opera

Jessica Insco (center) with Stacy Brightman, Senior Director of Education & Community Engagement and Nathan Rifenburg, Education Manager

Jessica Insco (center) with Stacy Brightman, Vice President, Education & Community Engagement and Nathan Rifenburg, Education Manager

I have been teaching fine arts at Narbonne High School for three years. I specialize in vocal music and theater and have had the pleasure of teaching students the “art” of loving the arts. This year, I tried something different by attending LA Opera’s Opera for Educators sessions. I’ve gained so much from these sessions that have fueled my passion for opera – a passion that I share with my students.

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Mary Johnston: Why I Became an LA Opera Community Educator

Mary Johnston volunteering with LA Opera

Mary Johnston volunteering with LA Opera

Close your eyes and imagine the most spectacular fireworks display you’ve ever seen. It’s probably filled with starbursts and various different colors that light up the sky, and brings back fond memories and leaves you in awe.

How you feel about that amazing fireworks display you’re picturing right now is how I have always felt about opera.

I have attended opera for more than 40 years in some of the greatest cities for the art form in the country, including New York and Los Angeles. Before becoming a Community Educator, I went to hear the singer’s beautiful voices and did not worry so much about the background on the opera or the composers. I sat and enjoyed the experience.

This all changed when I learned that as the member of the Opera League of Los Angeles, I could be trained by LA Opera’s Education and Community Engagement department to be a Community Educator. It sounded like a great way to give back to the community, while also having fun, and teaching people about opera. So, I decided to join the program.

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LA Opera Goes On Tour with Figaro Opera Tales

Leroy Villanueva and Ashley Faatoalia in Figaro Opera Tales; Photo: Jennifer Babcock

Leroy Villanueva and Ashley Faatoalia in Figaro Opera Tales; Photo: Jennifer Babcock

LA Opera has many programs to make sure that everyone has access to opera for little or no cost. Opera Tales is one of these programs. In partnership with the County of Los Angeles Public Library and with generous support provided by Los Angeles County Supervisors Don Knabe and Hilda Solis, LA Opera brings professional opera singers (or “opera pals”) to libraries around Los Angeles to perform musical moments from the most celebrated operas for families. Next month’s Figaro Opera Tales has the singers recounting tales from the entire Figaro Trilogy (Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro, and Corigliano’s The Ghosts of Versailles), as told by Pierre Beaumarchais.

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Student’s Corner: My Opera Experience

Clemence Yi during Opera Camp

Clemence Yi during Opera Camp

When I was five, my parents bought me a classical kids CD about Mozart’s The Magic Flute. I listened to it all the time and I started to be interested in opera. Then, I saw the full opera on DVD and I have loved opera ever since. I even saw my first live production at LA Opera when I was only seven years old: Gioacchino Rossini’s The Barber of Seville.

Watching all this opera at home and at LA Opera was great, but I really wanted to learn more.

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Spreading a Love of the Arts Through Reading Aloud

LA Opera's Production and Human Resources Coordinator Nadine Bedrossian reads to a class of third graders.

LA Opera’s Production and Human Resources Coordinator Nadine Bedrossian reads to a class of third graders.

Everyone loves a good story. That’s true whether you’re an adult reading the latest world news online or a child listening to a picture book being read. The latter is the core of the newest educational initiative in LA Opera’s already robust roster of inspiring programs.

Since January, LA Opera staff members and artists have read to kids in various grade levels at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School. A rewarding experience, Read Aloud offers staff members the opportunity to give back to the Los Angeles community – a core tenant of the company’s mission. It also provides children the opportunity to ask staff members about opera and the arts.

“I think that kids are just innately curious. They want to know how things work. They are with you all the way when you read to them, and so anxious to be part of this exchange,” says Gerrie Maloof, Senior Director, Labor Relations and Human Resources, of her experience. Production and Human Resources Administrator Nadine Bedrossian adds: “I think the most surprising thing when I went was that kids started cheering when I said that I’m from LA Opera. I asked, ‘Does it make me cool that I work at LA Opera?’ and the kids yelled, ‘Yeah!’ It’s so cute how excited they were about LA Opera specifically.”

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Why I Give: Rosanne Karlebach

Rosanne Karlebach has always loved opera and has donated to LA Opera for many years. She grew up in a very operatic household, as generations of her family members had experienced the joys of the art form. Ms. Karlebach even jokes that her mother used to take her to the opera instead of hiring a babysitter.

 John Treleaven as the title character in Siegfried (2009); Photo: Monika Rittershaus.

John Treleaven as the title character in Siegfried (2009); Photo: Monika Rittershaus.

Ms. Karlebach described her mother as an enthusiastic fan of Wagner’s Ring Cycle, who would often travel across the country to attend productions. Now, as an adult, Ms. Karlebach often brings friends to the opera, sometimes introducing them to classics like Carmen, or at most, three hours of the Ring Cycle. “I took a friend to one night of the LA Opera Ring Cycle, and she was fascinated, it was absolutely gorgeous.”

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Get To Know The Zarzuela Project

Andrea Sohn and her three children Nicolas (14), Julien (10) and Shela (8) dressed up for Zarzuela

Andrea Sohn and her three children Nicolas (14), Julien (10) and Shela (8) dressed up for Zarzuela

In partnership with The Mariachi Conservatory, LA Opera invites people from around LA County (with a concentrated focus on East LA) to explore opera. The Zarzuela Project is a key component of this. Led by a team of LA Opera teaching artists, including Melodee Fernandez, Abdiel Gonzalez and Vivian Liu, The Zarzuela Project accepts all ages and weekly rehearsals are held at Salesian High School in East LA. Fernandez’s students rehearse various Zarzuelas and perform them at partner venues around the community. It is a project that is very dear to LA Opera General Director Plácido Domingo, whose parents were both Zarzuela singers.

One of the members of The Zarzuela Project is Andrea Sohn.

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An Operatic Life: Robert Garcia

Stanford in Salamanca group 1971-72. Robert is fifth from the right.

Stanford in Salamanca group 1971-72. Robert is fifth from the right.

December 1971. While studying abroad at Stanford in Salamanca, I met a beautiful woman and her family. They loved opera; I had never seen one. They were leaving for Vienna and I for Venice and Switzerland. But, I knew that I had to see this woman again. We agreed to meet on New Year’s Eve at 7:30pm outside the Vienna Opera House.

December 30, 1971. After traveling through the Swiss Alps, I took the night train scheduled to arrive in Vienna in the morning of the 31st. I hoped to spend time with her during the day, exploring Vienna, before seeing the opera. But it was not meant to be! I had a Guatemalan passport and did not know that I needed a visa to enter Austria. Around midnight on the 30th, near Lichtenstein, the Austrian police ordered me to get off the train. They told me I could get a visa in the nearby principality of Lichtenstein in the morning. Unfortunately, the Austrian police said that the next train would get me to Vienna only on the 31st in the evening. There was nothing there, but a small closed train station. It was the middle of winter in the Swiss Alps, freezing, and I had nowhere to go. I slept on a bench with my down sleeping bag zipped to my nose. All I could think of was this beautiful woman. I knew I had to get to Vienna to see her. In the morning I took the first bus to Lichtenstein and go a visa from the Austrian consulate. I told his secretary my story about caring for this beautiful woman. She gets excited and drives me to the station in her VW bug. I jump out of her car, grab my pack, jump on the train as it’s leaving, and hear her yelling behind me “Remember the people of Lichtenstein!”

New Year’s Eve, 1971. I arrive at the Vienna Opera House well past 7:30pm. I try to buy a ticket, but the person at the box office looks me up and down, calls her manager, who promptly tells me that I can’t go to the opera looking like that. I have hair down to my shoulders. I’m wearing jeans and a bush jacket. I’m carrying a backpack. I’ve been on a train all day and I spent the night on a bench outdoors at an abandoned train station in the dead of winter in the middle of the Swiss Alps. I understand his concern, but I’m not going to let the protocol of the Vienna Opera House stop me from meeting up with this woman. He lets me in and I see my first opera, Verdi’s La Traviata, and I reunite with the beautiful woman once more.

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3 Reasons Teens Should Check Out Opera

Carmen (2013); Photo: Robert Millard

Carmen (2013); Photo: Robert Millard

I remember the night I was getting ready to see my sister perform in the children’s chorus in LA Opera’s production of Georges Bizet’s Carmen. I was nine years old and it was my first opera. As I stressed over what to wear, I kept imagining what it would be like when I opened the doors to the Dorothy Chandler: Hundreds of sophisticated adults in expensive outfits sipping champagne and discussing the show, and meanwhile I’d be sitting there feeling under dressed, under prepared, and terribly confused as to what they were even talking about.

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