Solo Opera is committed to educational outreach in the Bay Area and offers a number of activities with that commitment in mind. We believe our company’s purpose is to go out into the community to help educate people about opera. Not everyone can afford opera or is physically able to attend opera in the theatres. That is why we go to them to share the art form. During many of our shows, Solo Opera’s outreach programs touched the lives of over 2700 people (approx. 1700 children/adults and 1000 seniors).
These programs help us realize our mission statement and further our non-profit status by bringing opera to the people, helping to educate them. Some of our outreach programs include:
S.O.L.O. (Scenes from Opera and Light Opera)
S.O.L.O. is an outreach program under the main umbrella of Solo Opera that educates the community on three levels:
On the first level, S.O.L.O. will be educating and providing singers (of all ages) an opportunity to prepare and perform fully staged songs, arias, and scenes from opera, light opera, and musicals.
The second level of S.O.L.O. will involve sharing these prepared scenes with the community. S.O.L.O. will travel to local schools, retirement homes, nursing homes and group homes. These scenes will not only educate the young people of our community- the next generation of music lovers- but will also enrich the lives of and bring joy to the elderly and disabled. To further educate the groups we are visiting, SOLO will bring workbooks, study guides, and/or programs to be passed out at the performances. In past years we took a presentation of Hansel and Gretel scenes to the children of the East Bay schools as well as many traveling shows to retirement communities.
During our Storybook Opera sesaon 2014, we added a new dimension to S.O.L.O. and that is a summer opera workshop for children and teens. In collaboration with Cantabella Children's Chorus, we produced the 30 minute opera by Menotti entitled Chip and His Dog. The group of 20 teens/children paid to be in the workshop where they learned the music to the opera and were in a fully staged, fully costumed production at the Lesher Theatre. By giving kids a hands on experience of starring in a children's opera, this workshop was beneficial in helping to foster a new generation of opera lovers!
This section of our community outreach enables the schools to attend performances at the theater, allowing children to experience first hand a professional opera production. (Examples of such performances will include Amahl and the Night Visitors, Hansel and Gretel, etc.) Prior to the performances, a Solo Opera representative will go into the schools to share the music and story of the opera. An educational workbook will also be distributed to the students. In December 2003 we produced two student performances of our children’s opera Amahl and the Night Visitors which included a shortened version of the opera, a mini lecture on opera, and an educational booklet for the children to take home. These performances were so far enjoyed by approx. 450 children/adults (teachers, parents).
Amahl Apprentice Program
This program, for boy sopranos, ages 10-13, prepared young singers for the role of “Amahl” in our annual holiday chamber opera Amahl and The Night Visitors (2001, 2002, 2003). It was a wonderful opportunity for these children to improve their singing voices, learn the music and staging of an opera, and have the chance to star and/or understudy an operatic role in a professional situation. This program was in collaboration with Contra Costa Children’s Chorus of Walnut Creek.
Solo Opera is committed to joining with other non-profit organizations in the Bay Area to enhance the performance experience and presentation to the public. Some of the performing arts groups we collaborated with in the past included Berkeley Lyric Opera Orchestra, Contra Costa Children’s Chorus of Walnut Creek CA on Amahl and the Night Visitors, Holy Names University of Oakland, CA, and Goat Hall Productions of San Francisco, CA. In 2014 during our Storybook Opera season, we collaborated with the award winning Cantabella Children's Chorus of Livermore on Menotti's opera for children, Chip and His Dog, and Contra Costa Children's Chorus, The Next Step Dance Studio, and the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano on our holiday opera Hansel and Gretel. (Also see below for our newest collaboration with the City of Orinda and Orinda Rotary Club for our Opera in the Park July 2016.)
Tickets For Disadvantaged and Disabled Persons
In 2001, because of a generous grant from the Dean and Margaret Lesher Foundation, Solo Opera was able to provide ten per cent (10%) of its tickets to disadvantaged and disabled persons. It is our goal to continue this program with donations from other foundations and organizations. In 2003 Dean and Margaret Lesher Foundation again helped Solo Opera purchase tickets for about 100 disadvantaged/disabled persons.
Partially funded by US Bank Foundation, Storybook Opera began as a season of two children's opera in 2014: Chip and His Dog and Hansel and Gretel. These operas both contained children in the productions (Contra Costa Children's Chorus, Cantabella Children's Chorus and The Next Step Dance Studio) and were geared to help educate the children in the audience in the opera art form. In 2015, we had a second season of Storybook Opera featuring a reprisal of our popular Hansel and Gretel as well as offering a new opera, The Computer Kid's Magic Night in March 2016. In the future, with more funding, it is hoped that Solo can continue to bring more children's operas to the community to help foster a new generation of opera lovers! A traveling Storybook Set was purchased with the US Bank grant and used for Chip and his Dog. This set can also double now as a traveling small set for Hansel and Gretel and several other operas.
Collaboration with Local Businesses and the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano
Throughout the opera Hansel and Gretel there is a running theme of poverty and hunger. So to tie this theme into the needs of our community, we asked the audience of our Hansel 2014 and 2015 to join with us in bringing food to donate to the Food Bank. In turn we found many local businesses (Safeway, Lucky's, Sam's Club, Costco, Panera Bread, and Trader Joe's) that donated cookies/treats to give the audience during inermission as a thank you treat for their generosity. For 2014 and 2015 combined we gathered over 5 full barrels of food- over 400 pounds- to donate to their cause!
Crescendo Club- "Growing a new generation of opera lovers!"
Crescendo! is open to those who are interested in Solo Opera by participating in unique social events/fieldtrips, fundraising, volunteering back stage, and other music educational activities. Our main mission is to create increased and growing appreciation for the opera art form. One of our first outings will be a field trip to San Francisco Opera's "Sweeney Todd" early this fall. The group is open to all ages, with an emphasis on youth and young adults.
Opera in the Park - Collaboration with Orinda Rotary Club
July 24, 2016 marks Solo Opera's first Opera in the Park which is sponsored and co-produced by the Orinda Rotary Club and City of Orinda and will take place in the Orinda Community Park from 4:00-6:00pm. More information on this event is in the season section of our website. This event will bring FREE opera arias, duets, and ensembles to at least 1000 persons in the community. The master of ceremonies will be helping to educate the audience with commentary about the opera pieces with stories and translations. The performers will include eight professional opera singers from around the Bay Area.