I started Little Opera two months ago, with the goal of creating a professional children's opera company where everything is done by kids. I've worked as a teaching artist for San Francisco Opera for four years, and led over 40 classes through the creation of their own operas (I'm also a playwright by night). The class operas were so good, I wanted to find a way to take the idea further. So I start Little Opera. My funding plan relied on tuition at first, but then I got our first scholarship inquiry. Right below the checked box that says the family survives on food stamps, it read:
X is the middle of five children. The arts seem to be the area where she belongs. It's where she can stand out from her siblings. This opportunity would really boost her self esteem and set her on a path that she will probably continue for life.
That's when I changed my mind about what I wanted to do. I didn't just want to start Little Opera for privileged kids, I wanted to start Little Opera for kids like X-- the precocious, creative child who is probably not signed up for any after-school arts programming because the classes are either prohibitively expensive, or at a location their parents can't get them to on time.
So I re-worked the budget, fronted all of my savings, and started Little Opera. We are now in our 4th week of classes, and have eight young artists (aged 6-9) who are currently writing their own opera about an unfriendly forest (read: werewolves, lost children, alligators, swamps, goblins, evil trees). Only one of our students is paying full tuition. They perform in March.
Some more nitty gritty details about how it works:
Over the course of seven months, our students work together twice a week to create, rehearse, and perform an original opera. They do everything themselves. Everything means they will:
Write an original story Turn it into a libretto Compose music Choreograph dances and movement Design simple sets and costume pieces Build simple sets and costume pieces Peer-direct scenes throughout the rehearsal process Perform their original opera
How will they do all of that? One step at a time (and with help from local professional working artists). In fact, half of our fall classes are specialized Master Classes that focus on things like:
Stage Combat Set Design Dance/Choreography Masks/Puppetry Music Composition Singing Technique
I know I'm biased, but I think it's pretty awesome. Check it out for yourself: www.youtube.com/user/LittleOpera
Funded by San Francisco, CA (November 2011)