Thursday, March 22, 2001

Opera to call Walnut Hills High 'home'

By Andrea Tortora
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A new partnership between the Cincinnati Opera and Walnut Hills High School will help students and professionals reach new heights next year.

        The opera is expected to announce today that the school's newly renovated auditorium will become home base for the opera's educational programming. The partnership will be announced at a 7 p.m. “Opera Rap” at the school.

    Students from Tristate schools will attend OperaCadabra! performances at Walnut Hills next year.
    The shows illustrate for students the basic elements of opera by combining vaudeville and clowning techniques with well-known opera excerpts and special effects.
    There will be 20 OperaCadabra performances between March and May 2002, in addition to the opera's traveling tours, which visit 125 schools each year.
        “This gives the general student population an opportunity to take in a performance right here in their own school at no cost to them,” Principal Marvin Koenig said. “We were really very enthusiastic about the idea because it puts us into the mode of community outreach.”

        Naomi Barban, the opera's education director, said the partnership will enable the company to reach a larger student audience. The Walnut Hills auditorium is undergoing a $1.1 million renovation, paid for by the school's alumni association and the district. It will seat 1,100 students and will offer the opera a permanent set and lighting.

        “We will also involve Wal nut Hills students backstage, as ushers, and eventually on stage — giving them professional theater experience,” Ms. Barban said.

        The partnership also gives the opera space to start a new grade 7-12 curriculum that will combine a new production of the Barber of Seville with preperformance workshops. Students will have a chance to interact with professionals, practice their singing and learn what it takes to make opera a career.

        Jeff Brokamp, principal at the School for Creative and Performing Arts, called the partnership a plus for the entire community.

        “When the arts community brings its programs into the community, that strengthens the arts, and indirectly it can strengthen our program,” he said.

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