The Florentine Opera Company was proud to educate, entertain and inspire over forty students at the Lueders Opera Center in Riverwest on Mondays, June 21 and 28. Students from Woodland Pattern‘s Urban Youth Literacy Arts program expereienced a peek into our production process and an introduction to the world of opera. Woodland Pattern’s program allows students to express themselves through creative writing after taking part in arts-related experiences throughout Milwaukee. (Learn more about Woodland Pattern’s Urban Youth Literacy Arts Program.)
The students, ages 12-18, and four chaperones toured the Lueders Opera Center to see the costume and wig shops, the rehearsal rooms and the performance space. While the original boiler from the early 1900s was of great interest, several students were literally blown away during Melissa Cardomone (soprano), Brianne Sura (mezzo soprano) and Doug Clemon’s (baritone) performance of arias from operas sung in English, French and Italian. Pianist Anne Van Deusen accompanied the singers as they performed excerpts from Bernstein’s Wonderful Town, Bizet’s Carmen, Copland’s The Tender Land, Menotti’s The Old Maid and the Thief, Mozart’s Così fan Tutte, Porter’s Kiss Me Kate, Puccini’s La Bohème, and Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas.
On Monday, June 21, as Melissa sang high notes, several students leaned back in their chairs, overwhelmed by the power of her voice. During time for questions answered by the singers, one young man asked how the singers’ voices could be heard in a large theater without any microphones. The singers explained that opera singers must learn how to use their bodies properly so that they can sing loudly without hurting their vocal chords. Other questions included whether or not the singers could sing louder, how one could become an opera singer and whether or not the story of Dido and Aeneas is true.
During the second session, students asked the singers to explain and demonstrate vocal exercises. One student asked when the singers knew they wanted to sing opera. After learning that Brianne and Doug played sports, and that Brianne used her ability to sing to receive scholarship money so she could attend college, the students realized that one never knows where life might lead them! We had a great time discussing the difficult concept of one’s voice having a color. Melissa and Brianne sang the same notes to demonstrate how their voices have different colors because of the way their faces and bodies are constructed. The students could tell the difference immediately. As part of the creative writing aspect of the program, a chaperone asked all students to write down a description and the color of her voice.
It was great to see a new audience absorb all that the Florentine has to offer at the Lueders Opera Center – and there were plenty of memorable moments. While the first group of students seemed a bit unsure at first, their faces brightened when Brianne said that the composer of one song was Mozart. On Monday, June 28, we even discovered that a student had been in a local production of La Bohème with Brianne! After the performance, the students were free to ask more questions before moving around the room to find the perfect place to write about their time spent at the Lueders Opera Center. We hope the experience gave the Woodland Pattern students a lot to think and write about!