Opera a la Carte


Earlier this month, the school gathered for an Opera a la Carte performance of Pirates of Penzance by Gilbert and Sullivan brought to us by the San Francisco Opera Guild. The performance featured both professional opera singers and our very own students! Ten of our 8th grade students participated on stage (as actors and narrators) accompanied by a 6th-8th grade choir, and 4 professional musicians. Additionally, one of our 8th grade students, Oliver, performed a solo. The SF Opera Guild has been putting on these Opera a la Carte performances for over 20 years as a way of introducing opera to younger audiences. 

Lilianna Parker, MTS music teacher, worked to prepare our middle school students for the performance, a project-based learning initiative. Prior to the performance, Lilianna engaged the 8th grade class with in-depth studies about opera, and selected student actors met at lunch time for rehearsals. Additionally, Lilianna taught all grades in music class about this particular opera, introducing them to the Pirates of Penzance storyline and listening to some of the arias from the opera with students, as well as showing them examples of how this opera has influenced modern culture. For example, the aria “The Modern Major General” is portrayed in Indespicable Me 3 and on Family Guy. The 6th-8th grade enrichment choir spent rehearsal time learning the opera choruses they sang during the performance.

The performance itself began with an introduction by an SF Opera Guild docent, who guided the audience through the storyline and introduced the characters. Then the music began and the soaring voices of the opera singers filled Summit Hall. Seeing our MTS students on stage with such impressive professional singers, the fun of the story, and the sense of joy from all the performers made it a thrilling event! The final act was followed by a Q&A session between students and the professional performers during which questions such as “Is that a real sword?” to “What is the SF Opera Guild?” were then answered for students. 

Pirates of Penzance Synopsis:

Written by W.S. Gilbert with music composed by Arthur Sullivan, Pirates of Penzance is a comedic opera that first premiered in New York City in 1879. The story is about Frederic, who after completing his 21st year of an apprenticeship, is released to a band of tender-hearted pirates. He meets Mabel, the daughter of Major-General Stanley, and the two young people fall instantly in love. Frederic soon learns, however, that he was born on the 29th of February in a leap year, so technically he has a birthday only once every four years. Since the terms of his indenture specify that he remain apprenticed to the pirates until his "twenty-first birthday,” this means he must serve for another 63 years. Bound by his own sense of duty, Frederic's only solace is that Mabel agrees to wait for him faithfully. [Read more on Wikipedia.]

A longer version of the school performance can be found on Vimeo here

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