By Diego Dela Rosa
Adorned in suits and gowns Bonita Vista High (BVH) students awaited their horse drawn carriage, a charter bus, to take them to the “ball,” in this case, an opera production. On Oct. 21 around 50 students from BVH got the opportunity to see the opera “La Cerentola”, the story of Cinderella, produced by the San Diego Opera at the San Diego Civic Theater.
The San Diego Opera holds a special student night program in which it provides free tickets and transportation for students and chaperones to see the dress rehearsal of a specific opera. In order to apply to get tickets, teachers must make an account with the opera company and register for a specific opera. Many teachers were not lucky with obtaining tickets for Cinderella as the selection process is by chance rather than by first come first serve. Spanish and french teacher Marina Dillingham was one of the unlucky teachers.
“That’s a problem because I am always on the ball and I ask right away and then they don’t tell you until much later. It is very frustrating,” Dillingham said.
Gail Kennedy, the vocal music director at BVH, also applied to get tickets and was one of the lucky teachers to actually receive them. However, she did not obtain the directly from the opera company.
“The tickets that I requested were originally denied. However, the [BVH] band requested 50 tickets and they were granted theirs but they couldn’t go so they passed them on to us and we are very grateful,” Kennedy said.
Members of the show choirs Music Machine (MM) and Sound Unlimited (SU) were invited by Kennedy to see the opera, spaces were limited as only 50 tickets were available. Among the students who went many perceived the musical in a positive manner. Sophia Collins, senior and assistant director of SU was one of the show choir members who attended.
“Being a singer in a high school choir, [members of Sound Unlimited] don’t really get to experience that type of singing. Our voices aren’t that mature so to witness someone with such a great range and so versatile was a good opportunity,” Collins,said.
Kennedy was lucky enough to get orchestra tickets for her and her students.Teachers value operas because they teach students in an unconventional way.These tickets allow teachers and their students to have an entertaining yet educational experience. According to Robert Pirazzini, italian teacher at BVH, operas are a great way to learn more about Italy’s society.
“Opera goes back hundreds of years, it is part of the Italian culture along with the music and many famous composers.These are things that I would like to share with my students, and many times they don’t get to see the opera,” Pirazzini said.
Opera itself is a big part of the Italian way of life, but the themes and aspects of many different operas exemplify more aspects of the Italian civilization. Samantha Bane, a junior and italian student of three years, was able to see the opera “La Tosca,” last year through the student night program.
“It portrayed different aspects of the culture that you don’t normally see. There were multiple scenes in Act 1 in a church, it was interesting to see a portrayal of Italian religious culture,” Bane said.
Aside from the culture of Italy, other operas also pertain to the french and spanish course curriculum. Some operas are sung in those respected languages like “Don Quixote”, in spanish, and “La Fille du Regiment,” in french.
“The opera is important to my Advanced Placement French class because there is a unit on the arts and it fits well in that topic. It also fits in with the leisure activities in my spanish class,” Dillingham said.
In regards to the performing arts, operas are examples of live theater and vocal and performing arts. Since the student night program gives out tickets for the dress rehearsal it also gives students insight on the pre-production process of putting on a show.
“They will be able to see some learning experiences as the conductor may stop the singers or band to give notes. Also they could see a set or costume issue, it is a rehearsal, so someone might miss the lighting cue, I want them to learn from those moments,” Kennedy said.
Students were also able to observe and learn from the vocal techniques opera singers used. This was a beneficial experience for the show choir students who attended.
“I hope [other members of SU] took away the technique. I hope they listened attentively to the way the opera singers on stage opened their mouths, or the way they used their voices in many ways to express different messages and tones.I hope they appreciated someone else’s talent and use it as motivation to better themselves. Collins said.
Going to see an opera is not a common occurrence for many teenagers. Less people are introduced to opera productions or live theater for that matter.
“I just hope that it opens their minds to maybe see another opera one day, or to go see a play, or a musical production. For some students it is their first chance, their only chance, to witness something like this,” Pirazzini said.
One goal of the student night convention is to expose young individuals to opera in order to spark an interest and passion in the arts.
“One of the reasons why they are encouraging students to come to the opera is because the generation of the people who appreciate the opera is dying out and if we don’t get some new blood coming in there opera will just go away,” Kennedy said.
Operas provide a nice contrast to the more contemporary styles teenagers are used to. Music on the radio is very different than the traditional ballads sung in operas.
“I like modern music but I just think there is a lot of value in going to see the classics and seeing something elegant,” Dillingham said.
Even though operas are centuries old many operas contain themes that are still present in modern society.
“[La Tosca] is an older one so the time in which the opera takes place is centuries ago. Yet it was still very relatable. It was very believable, a lot of things are still similar to today,” Bane said.
Students can also appreciate the talent that the opera singers possess. It is one thing to sing in a recording studio, but opera singers do not receive that sort of luxury.
“I want them to learn an appreciation for it, to see that these opera singers are athletes. To be able to sing without the use of microphone with the ability for the people way in the back to hear you, plus the orchestra is playing in front of you, it is amazing what they can do,” Pirazzini said.
The opera held a great opportunity for students of BVH to witness professional arts.Many said it was a magical experience.
“The backgrounds were amazing, the scenery, the different sets, the attention to detail was amazing,” Collins said. “To see the lyrics and the story come to life was incredible.”