Summer isn’t the only “opera season” in Cincinnati. Since this is National Opera Week, we thought we’d shine a spotlight on how Cincinnati Opera is reaching out to new audiences and communities all over the region. Community and school tours provide people of all ages a chance to discover how this classic art form can bring us together.
Cincinnati Opera Outbound
Cincinnati Opera has been presenting school and community performances since 1970. In 2012, the program took on the name Cincinnati Opera Outbound, with a goal to get beyond the walls of Music Hall and engage with people in their neighborhoods.
Last October, Cincinnati Opera presented Pirates of Penzance, a 45-minute program that toured to schools and community centers across the region. With its zany wordplay and physical comedy, the classic operetta serves as a great introduction to opera for children and adults alike. The production toured to 17 schools and 7 community venues, reaching local communities from Westwood and Sharonville to Covington and Mason, and even as far away as Louisville. Cincinnati Opera estimates that the tour was seen by over 7,500 people.
Getting in on the Act
With Pirates of Penzance, Opera Outbound decided to try something new and create a participatory experience as part of the show. In addition to the professional singers, almost all of the performances included a chorus of children playing pirates, wards, and policeman. Nineteen members of Cincinnati Children’s Choir served as the chorus in community venues. “I really to want to thank the Cincinnati Opera staff and singers - they have made our Cincinnati Children's Choir kids feel so special during this entire process,” said Sandy Thornton of Cincinnati Children’s Choir. “It would not surprise me at all if this experience encourages these families to attend more opera performances in the future.”
At school performances, the chorus members were recruited from among the students, giving them an opportunity to explore opera first-hand. This chance to perform changed the dynamic of the show for everyone involved. “Not only are those sixteen kids so excited to perform alongside professionals and having fun doing it, but the kids in the audience are also more engaged because they are watching their friends,” says Kemper Florin, Opera Outbound Manager. “School teachers spent weeks helping to prepare and some parents even attended. Everyone was more invested in the program and, I think, got more out of it.”
“Community programs like Opera Outbound and Opera Goes to Church are an essential part of our mission at Cincinnati Opera,” says Cincinnati Opera Artistic Director Evans Mirageas. “We truly believe that opera is for everyone and for all ages, and these performances farther afield offer us the opportunity to connect with Greater Cincinnati residents who might not venture Downtown.” Cincinnati Opera also presents free performances each year outdoors in Washington Park and the Cincinnati Zoo.
The spring Opera Outbound touring show, Pursuing the Dream, will feature stories and music around common stories of immigration, family, loyalty, and social justice. The show is designed to be a companion piece for Morning Star, the new opera having its world premiere at Cincinnati Opera in 2015. Community and schools performances ran April 25 – May 9.
By supporting arts organizations like Cincinnati Opera that make their home in Music Hall and Downtown Cincinnati, ArtsWave also supports inspiring experiences like Opera Outbound in neighborhoods across the region. Expanding the reach of music beyond the concert hall… that’s ArtsWave in Action.
Find out more about how others are celebrating National Opera Week by following #OperaWeek on Twitter.