At Little Opera at Grace, we make operas with kids. In this year-long after-school program in the heart of San Francisco, students in K-8th grade work with our team of artists to WRITE, COMPOSE, ACT, SING, DESIGN, & PERFORM their very own mini-operas. The process is a holistic approach to arts education, with a focus on teaching students how to collaboratively make everything themselves. Over the course of the year, students will write a story, craft a libretto (words for singing), compose melodies, receive singing and acting coaching, choreograph movement, design their own props and costumes, and rehearse & perform a 15-20 minute show. The final result? A micro opera that is 100% built from their own imaginations.
Over the course of 9 months, here is what they’ll do:
Write an Original Story
• Envision and select the backstory from which our opera will take place
• Develop a storyline with complex characters and situations
• Create a cohesive musical narrative from beginning to end
Craft a Libretto
• Understand the nuances of lyric writing
• Organize the story through moments of song, movement, and musical dialogue
• Collaborate through the writing, editing, and revision processes
• Learn about rhythm, melody, and emotion in music
• Improvise sung melodies for all libretto text
• Work with professional composers to creative collaborative content
• Hone movement techniques and skills, explore different dance styles
• Envision original movement sequences to augment the opera’s narrative
• Learn from professional dancers to refine and polish movements
Design and Build Sets, Props, and Costumes
• Create original designs for all set, prop, and costume elements of the opera
• Build models for design concepts
• Collaborate with professionals to execute the construction of designs
Rehearse, Reflect, and Direct
- Work with professionals to improve, polish, and execute the final performance
- Peer direct in order to build confidence, leadership, and community
- Reflect on their work, practicing how to give and receive feedback
• Perform the finished Opera in one of San Francisco’s greatest spaces, Grace Cathedral.
• Share work-in-progress during informal performances for student’s families throughout the year
• Celebrate a year’s hard work with a final bow and a family potluck
Throughout the year, students take specialized classes with visiting artists. Master class topics vary by year, and have included costume design, set design, dance & choreography, stage combat, masks & puppetry, music composition, and singing technique.
Since 2011, over 100 artists have visited Little Opera classes.
Past guests include: Shane Adero, Sofia Ahmad, Michael Barret Austin, Alona Bach, Kathleen Barnes, Dorothy Bayern, Heather Basrab, Sharon Benitez, Matt Boehler, Eve Boltax, Laura Boytz, El Beh, Todd Berman, Joshua Raoul Brody, Joanna Bronk, Alex Burgess, Anna Bullard, Cindy Burg, Wendy Buzby, Miranda Caroligne, Rodrigo Castillo, Naya Chang, Danny Clay, Ariel Craft, Natasha Czajka, Mike Dahlberg, Clara Daims, Sonja Dale, Tara Donohue, Hannah Dworkin, Peter Engelbert, Friction Quartet, Allyson Feeney, Alyce Finwall, Jon Fischer, Callie Floor, Lucas Floyd, From the Top, The Furies, Alexandra Gilliam, Miles Graber, Kimberly Gelbwasser, Kevin Gino, Margaret Gordon, Nora Beth Griffin, Felipe Hernandez, Kristen Hevner-Wyatt, Ken Helman, Tracy Hughes, Cristina Ibarra, Cindy Im, Alla Irwin, Laura Inserra, G Scott Lacey, Phillip Lenberg, Danielle Levin, Rebecca Longworth, Erica MacLeod, Isabel Magdaleno, Casey McKerchie, John Mayne, Katie Meyers, Vince Montgomery, Lisa Morse, Amy Mu, Winnie Nieh, Mary Joy Patchett, Rebecca Pingree, Cathleen Riddley, Isabel Rosenstock, Zephyr Roos, Brian Rosen, Sarah Roland, Dorothy Santos, Anna Sapozhnikova, Claire Shaw, Christina Shonkweiler, Rich Sargent, Tom Segal, David Senk, Emily Shisko, Annie Smith, Matthew Graham Smith, Marissa Simmons, Lauren Spencer, Martha Stookey, Margaret Starr, Alex Stein, Ariana Strahl, Wiley Strasser, Elissa Stebbins, Roma Olvera, Adelle Trotta, Mosa Tsay, Briana Ung, Charith Wickrema, Debra Wong, Marissa Wolf, Elena Wright, DeVanté Winn, Jessica Winn, Elena Wright, Yi-Fang Wu, and Kat Zdan.