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S.D. Opera Program Gets Kids Humming

March 12, 1992|PAT LAUNER

A number of North County students have gotten their first taste of theater training through the San Diego Opera's 12-year-old "Opera for Kids . . . By Kids" program.

Twelve schools a year in the county are able to participate in a six-week in-school program, geared to grades 4 to 6. Three opera professionals--a director, technical director and music director--work with the children every morning for an hour.

As many as 120 children may participate, making costumes, creating sets, being part of the stage crew and performing. The kids get direct instruction about theater, opera and what it takes to mount a production. The opera presents the program at a cost to the participating school of $500.

"It's an incredible deal," says Roger Pines, the opera's director of education. "We get tons of fan mail from teachers, administrators and parents about how kids have discovered themselves, are working with peers in a responsible way, carrying the learning into classes. If we instill discipline now, it will stay with them a long time. It's nice to find a budding star, but that's not our intention. Our purpose is to introduce the art form in the most exciting way possible--to be doing it themselves. And to bring some beauty into their lives. There's an awful lot of joy in this experience."

The opera program recently went to Central School in Escondido for a production of "Hansel and Gretel," an adaptation of Humperdinck's fairy tale opera. As with all Opera for Kids productions, each participant had to sign a contract; if they didn't fulfill their obligations to the production and also keep up with their schoolwork, they could be "fired."

"We treat them very professionally," Pines said. "And they rise to the occasion."

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