Middle school students create, perform opera

LaVillaOpera_05Full-length opera makes history as first in country

Art may imitate life, but for students at LaVilla School of the Arts there is no replicating the production of the full-length opera titled, “Jared: A Tale of Freedom, Control and Choice.” 

Indeed, every word and every note of the production is the outcome of collaboration between LaVilla’s vocal, theatre, and instrumental music students. 

LaVillaOpera_04While the production, which will run on April 14 and 15 in the school’s theatre, promises to be a work of art, it will also make history as the first full-length opera to be both created and performed exclusively by middle school students. 

“This is the first time that a full-length opera has been done entirely by middle school students – anytime, anywhere in any country,” said Shawn Pendry, Choral Director and Music Composition Teacher, who is the Project Manager for the production.    

While the idea for the opera originated with Pendry, the LaVilla students, who had just finished studying the Enlightment Period, chose the complicated themes of redemption, unconditional love and generational sin for the story line. 

“Students wanted to deal with real material – not unicorns in a fantasy land,” said Pendry.  “It raises the question about how far do our freedoms go before they cross into the personal liberties of others.”

Singing in the opera will be Delaney Rose, an eighth-grade vocal student who said the serious story line explores the role of freedom versus control with the central figure, Jared, being a sociopath.

“The character, Jared, is a horrid person,” said Delaney. “The students wanted the opera to reflect pretty serious issues. They created these characters not just for the audience but for the students to confront problems happening in the world today.”

Delaney’s mother, Teresa Rose, a St. Nicholas resident, is thrilled her daughter and the other students at LaVilla have the unique opportunity to create and perform in their own opera.

LaVillaOpera_03“This will be Delaney’s first opera, but it’s also historically significant because it’s the first opera created and performed solely by middle school students,” said Rose.  “It is an incredible opportunity, not just because of the value of the experience to perform but because it shows these kids what it’s like to really create art – to make something significant out of nothing.”

For Pendry, it is an opportunity to show the public what students can do when their potential is unleashed and for students to see the freedom they have to do just about anything in this world. 

“There has never been a project at this school, and perhaps any other, that accesses so many parts of human knowledge from concept to stage.  Every art and every academic pursuit in our building have played a role in the creation of Jared,” explained Pendry.  “Our students have spoken their story into the world with their words, their melodies.  This is freedom.”

Approximately 160 students have been involved in bringing the project to fruition. The Visual Arts Department will host an art exhibit that will reflect the themes of the opera to coincide with the show.   

To help pay for production costs of sound and theatrical directors, students have set up a fundraising page at www.gofundme.com/cw7s8hws. To date, they have raised $5,710 of the $10,000 needed. Tickets can be purchased for $15 at the door.

By Lara Patangan
Resident Community News

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