For more information and videos of the program, visit
Opera often is considered esoteric at best, stuffy
and boring at worst. Thanks to the efforts of the Chicago Opera
Theater, it is neither of those things for a growing number of
Chicago Public School students.
This fall, children in first through sixth grades from
seven CPS schools will participate in a program called Opera for
All. The program features a partnership between the schools and
COT, whose mission partly is to make opera fresh, engaging, and
accessible to all.
Opera for All brings in COT teaching artists who work with
students and their classroom teachers to write and perform an
opera. It begins in September with the basics.
"When we say opera, a lot of kids think it's Oprah," says
director Linden Christ. "We spend the first month just talking
about what opera is."
With help from the experts at COT, the children write an
original libretto, compose music, make props, sing, dance and act
their way through imaginative, sometimes whimsical, operas with
names like "When Field Trips Attack!" and "Lost in New
Until recently, the students worked with adaptations of
operas that previously had been performed by COT. When they were
allowed to write their own material, however, the interest level
"They own this show," teaching artist Lisa Golda
Fifth-grader Selmir Kurtovic confirms that sentiment when
asked what he enjoyed most about this year's opera. Without
hesitation, he says, "When I got to write and perform my own
Teachers have observed that the process of writing and
composing helps develop reading and writing skills, while the
creative element contributes to positive dynamics in the classroom.
Christ also points out the benefits of delayed gratification and
the rewards that come from seeing a project to completion, starting
with an idea and finishing with a live stage production eight
Last June the enthusiasm was palpable as more than 60
students sang and danced before a full auditorium at Clinton
Elementary. Opera boring? No way! These kids could make anyone a
See more of Kathy's stories here.
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