Swashbuckling ‘Pirates’ Will Introduce STL Kids To Opera | St. Louis Public Radio

Swashbuckling ‘Pirates’ Will Introduce STL Kids To Opera

Oct 8, 2014

Many St. Louisans know about “The Pirates of Penzance” because of the 1983 movie version starring St. Louis native Kevin Kline or its more recent iterations on The Muny stage.

This month, Opera Theatre of St. Louis is using the Gilbert and Sullivan opera of the same name to introduce elementary, middle- and high-school students to a genre they may not be as familiar with.

From the 2012 Opera on the Go program that worked with "Marriage of Figaro."
Credit Opera Theatre of St. Louis

OTSL is bringing back its “Opera on the Go!” program with workshops in 20 schools that teach kids about characters, music, costume design, makeup and other facets of production. The instruction is provided by young, emerging opera professionals, some of whom were first exposed to opera through similar programs.

More than 2,000 students in districts including Jennings, Ferguson-Florissant, St. Louis Public Schools and the Washington, Mo., district, will participate. Opera Theatre’s education manager Dan Mayo says the program helps to combat stereotypes.

“People imagine that opera is very stuffy, that it’s not relatable, that it’s sung in a foreign language, that there’s not a lot of good acting that’s going on,” Mayo said.

Barry Rudert, a teacher at Lawson Elementary in the Hazelwood School District, had students participate in “Opera on the Go!” in the past. In an email, Rudert wrote that his students learned opera wasn't the foreign concept they’d imagined.

“Through this program, they have discovered that opera is another way of telling a story just like a movie or a musical,” Rudert wrote. “The singers make them a part of the opera experience and it is fun for them.”

The program debuted in 2005, operating every other year, and has toured 90 area schools. It costs each school $600 to participate. This year, the public will have two chances to see abbreviated workshop performances of “The Pirates of Penzance.” 

THE BASICS

‘The Pirates of Penzance’ ‘Opera on the Go!’ STL Performance

When: 11 a.m., Saturday, Oct. 18

Where:  Sally S. Levy Opera Center, 210 Hazel Ave., 63119

How much: Free

Information: Opera Theatre website

‘The Pirates of Penzance’ ‘Opera on the Go!’ Washington, Mo., Performance

When: 3:30 pm, Saturday, Oct. 25

Where: Washington Fall Festival of Arts and Crafts at St. Francis Borgia School, 225 Cedar Street, 63090

How much: $5

Information: Opera Theatre website

Follow Nancy Fowler on Twitter: @NancyFowlerSTL