Opera comes to Dunbar School
Last week I joined the students of Dunbar School in watching the San Francisco Opera’s educational team, Opera a la Carte, present Gaetano Donizetti’s popular opera, “The Elixir of Love.”
Of course the students weren’t subjected to a full-length opera production in Italian, but a simple, enjoyable 45-minute version of this timeless love story. Set in a vineyard in 19th century Italy, the story could easily take place in our own Valley.
I arrived at the school just in time to watch the various classes – kindergartners through fifth graders – file into the school’s multi-purpose room. Initially, their actions didn’t hold much promise: a more motley opera audience would be hard to find.
They entered the room orderly enough, sat more or less where instructed on the floor and then set up a boisterous chattering that filled that acoustically challenged space.
Then suddenly, as if by magic, the show began and the students were silent, their attention focused on the performers. They watched and listened with enthusiasm, laughing when appropriate and clapping joyfully. Clearly many of the students were dazzled by the performance, and maybe even a few felt the first stirrings of a lifelong love of opera.
This Opera a la Carte performance was excellent. With a libretto delightfully adapted to entertain young children, the quick pacing of the performance kept their attention focussed while the emotion of the beautiful arias engaged deep feelings.
Of course, the children especially loved the scenes with their compatriots, and certainly the student performers experienced the thrill of an appreciative audience.
Among the props that especially elicited laughter were a tube sock scarf, a pair of bright yellow happy-face boxer shorts and the elixir, here a clearly identifiable bottle of Gatorade. After gulping this elixir, the hero accomplished a snazzy Michael Jackson-style moonwalk across the stage that evoked further guffaws.
All in all, a terrific show for our students. And for this adult opera lover, there was no disappointment, either. The children were charming and the professional singers were polished, beautiful to hear and watch.
The S.F. Opera performers included soprano Jennifer Ashworth singing the part of Adina, the young woman who owns the vineyard. Her hopeful suitor Nemorino was sung by tenor Andy Truett. The baritone part of Dr. Dulcamara, the dubious fellow who hawks the elixir, was sung by Mark Hernandez. Pianist Baker Peeples kept the action moving with his lovely piano accompaniment.
At the end of the show, a kindergartner seated in the front row proclaimed, “It was so beautiful, it made me want to cry,” an enthusiastic endorsement that any performer would cherish. I thoroughly agree.
Other good news of two upcoming events for students comes from Alison Pimentel. Both help our schools in this time of budget cuts, plus offer fun for kids. First up: this Saturday, Dec. 3, from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., the Corner Store for Kids at 116 E. Napa St. in Sonoma is hosting a Free Craft Day where children can make paper flowers, chenille animals and paper chains to take home. While the kids are crafting, parents can shop at the Corner Store knowing that 20 percent of all sales that day will benefit the Sonoma Valley Educational Foundation.
Then, next Wednesday, Dec. 7, Altimira Middle School holds an open house in its multipurpose room featuring all the science fair projects created by their students. While viewing the projects, parents and students can shop at Altimira’s Holiday Gift Faire (in the same room) where vendors of handmade crafts will be selling their wares, with a percentage of the proceeds benefitting Altimira’s Parent Teacher Organization.
Next week, I’ll share good news of worthy deeds done by the folks of our little church in the vale, the Glen Ellen Community Church, as well as the latest deeds of Glen Ellen’s own Christmas elves.
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Share your good news with your friends and neighbors in Glen Ellen by writing me at Box 518, GE 95442, emailing me at email@example.com or calling me at 996-5995.