May 27, 2014—The UO Opera Ensemble, led by opera instructor Dr. Karen Esquivel, traveled to four elementary schools in Springfield, Ore. on April 24 and 25, performing Montsalvatge's "Puss in Boots" to nearly 1,000 children. The cast of nine UO students gave a 45-minute performance that left crowds entranced by the voices, costumes, acting, and story.
"I believe opera is a beautiful art form, incorporating all the senses, and I am sad when it's characterized as an elitist art form, with limited appeal to younger generations," said Esquivel. "As a result, the audience for opera has dwindled over the years, and we're at risk of losing an art form."
"There are many reasons to share opera with children; the main being it is fun!" Esquivel continued.
Her assembled audience seemed to agree; the children giggled, laughed, and had their eyes and ears glued to the stage as the UO singers shared their passion.
"Opera is a wonderful exploration of visual and aural art and it can be very accessible to young audiences before they are taught by culture that opera is boring or only for snobs," Esquivel said.
UO graduate teaching fellow in voice Katie Curtis, whom played the part of a bunny in the performance, explained how reaching out the community has had a positive impact on her education and confidence.
"It is an incredibly unique opportunity to be able to step out of the collegiate atmosphere and preform in such varied venues with an audience so young," Curtis said. "I think as students we need to step out into the community to gain a rounded understanding, and learn how to use our talents in non-traditional ways."
The Opera Ensemble members received stacks of notes from the pint-sized audience, who expressed their gratitude.
Outreach is a major component of the mission of the UO School of Music and Dance, including an ongoing collaboration with the Eugene Opera.
"The UO does an amazing job of sharing the arts with the community on campus through concerts at Beall Hall, but it is also important to bring opera to those who are not seeking it out," Curtis said. "It's the support of those people and the younger generations that will allow opera to continue to flourish."