New Education & Community Engagement Programs at Seattle Opera Include New Opera Commissions

SeattleSeattle Opera is pleased to announce several robust new education and community engagement programs, including newly commissioned operas.
With the goal of providing more effective cultural service to residents of Washington state, and with a particular emphasis on young people, these new programs offer ways for those who have never before experienced opera to connect with and develop a passion for this art form.
Seattle Opera’s Education and Community Engagement programs reflect and inspire creativity, provide multiple entry points to the world of opera, foster lifelong learning, facilitate meaningful exchange, and build capacity for opera.
“It is no longer enough for our education programs to introduce youth and interested adults to our mainstage programming,” said Speight Jenkins, General Director of Seattle Opera. “We are committed to investing in programs that take advantage of the human capital of our company, by increasing access to the hundreds of incredibly talented people who work for Seattle Opera, forging stronger partnerships with other community organizations, and extending the vitality and passion of opera beyond performances at McCaw Hall. This season we offer two compelling new projects in addition to the opera education programs our community has come to rely on over the years. I’m particularly interested in the new operas we’ve commissioned, Belonging(s) and Our Earth, which create lyric theater out of people’s lives, history, and the environment here in the Pacific Northwest.”

A full-length opera with music by Jack Perla, to a libretto by Jessica Murphy Moo, will be at the heart of Belonging(s), a multi-year community engagement project that creates music and drama from the real-life stories of Puget Sound area residents.
In the first phase of this multi-year project, Seattle Opera collected hundreds of stories, each centering on a cherished belonging that embodies struggle, success, and identity.
Audio and video footage of the collected stories is now available in an online digital quilt.
The Belonging(s) creative team has chosen a handful of stories to serve as the spine of their new opera, which is currently in development.
“Drawing inspiration from Seattle Opera’s signature work, Wagner’s Ring, we’re using stories of our most precious possessions to create new work as part of a local, communal arts practice, beginning with ideas and images from you, your friends, and your neighbors,” says Sue Elliott, Education Director for Seattle Opera.
Before coming to Seattle Opera in June 2010, Elliott was the mastermind behind Houston Grand Opera’s Song of Houston, a series of collaborative educational and artistic projects which celebrated the people of Houston and won the company the Leading Lights Diversity Award in Arts and Culture from the National MultiCultural Institute.


Jack Perla, Composer
“I believe that Jack Perla is one of America’s most promising composers,” says Sue Elliott, Seattle Opera’s Education Director. “I am thrilled he is writing this opera for us, and can’t wait to hear this work come to life onstage.”
Composer and pianist Jack Perla uses a palette that includes symphonic, operatic, and chamber music, as well as varied jazz and popular idioms.
His most recent commission, from Opera Theater of St. Louis, is for a new opera based on Salman Rushdie’s Shalimar the Clown.
He was also recently commissioned by Minnesota Opera to compose a full evening work for its 50th anniversary.
Perla’s first full-length chamber opera, Love/Hate, with libretto by Rob Bailis, premiered in April 2012, performed by San Francisco Opera’s Adler Fellows at ODC Theater in San Francisco.
In early 2011, his one-act opera Courtside, to a libretto by San Francisco playwright Eugenie Chan, received its world premiere as part of Houston Grand Opera’s Song of Houston project.
Other recent commissions include a piano and cello composition, a new vocal chamber work for soprano Sylvia McNair, and an orchestral song cycle for The Oakland East Bay Symphony with tenor Thomas Glenn in addition to recording projects.
Perla has received commissions, awards, grants, and performances from the Oakland Symphony, James Irvine Foundation, Louisiana Philharmonic, New Music Chicago, Absolute Ensemble, Argosy Fund for New Music, MATA, Chicago Symphony, Yaddo, MacDowell and many other organizations.
He won the Thelonious Monk Institute Jazz Composers Award in 1997, and remains an active jazz performer and composer.

Jessica Murphy Moo, Librettist
“Jessica has a wonderful ability to capture the essence of profound emotion in everyday life,” says Sue Elliott. “Her ability to take your breath away with her characters’ lives is without peer.”
Jessica Murphy Moo is a writer, teacher, and editor.
Her fiction has appeared in The Atlantic, Image, and Memorious; her nonfiction has appeared in Poets & Writers Magazine and The Atlantic Online, among other publications.
As Seattle Opera’s Communications Editor, she writes for and edits Seattle Opera’s programs and publications.
She has held teaching positions at Emerson College, Harvard University, Boston University, and Seattle Pacific University, and she now teaches for an online writing workshop organization based in the Seattle area.
She holds an MFA in fiction from Emerson College, and has been the recipient of the Milton Center Postgraduate Writing Fellowship and a Whiteley Center Writing Residency.
In addition to the Belonging(s) libretto, she is working on a collection of short stories.

Opera Goes To School, Seattle Opera’s decade-old flagship education program, will bring together music and drama with science and nature in Our Earth, a cycle of three short new operas (average length 40 minutes each) for young people, with music by Eric Banks and libretti by Irene Keliher.
These operas tell stories of people and animals in Pacific Northwest environments: when the salmon fail to return in the spring, figures such as Orca, Heron, Raven, Raccoon, and Salmon, along with human characters, embark on a quest in search of them.
Written for a cast of four adult singers, plus optional children’s chorus representing the waves, the river, and baby salmon, the Our Earth operas can be performed either with orchestra or with piano accompaniment.
This flexibility allows the operas both to serve as exciting centerpieces at celebratory community events and to fit the strict time, resource, and budgetary constraints of school-based programs.
With Our Earth, Seattle Opera expands its K-8 Opera Goes To School program to reach far more students, schools, and communities than ever before.
Partnerships with like-minded organizations such as the Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestras, The Nature Conservancy, and Seattle Aquarium will further expand the program’s scope.
The original idea behind Our Earth came from Seattle Opera’s signature work, Wagner’s Ring, which has been the focus of the Opera Goes To School program since 2005.
Wagner’s ecological concerns, particularly as manifest in Seattle Opera’s current Ring production with its emphasis on nature, is an inspiration for the stories of the Our Earth operas.
Also, like the operas of the Ring, Our Earth can be performed as separate, individual operas or as a linked cycle.
Unlike previous Opera Goes To School programs, Our Earth is not an adaptation of a pre-existing opera but a work specifically created for family audiences of the Pacific Northwest.

For the general public, the first Our Earth opera, Heron and the Salmon Girl, has its premiere at Town Hall on February 10, 2013.
Seattle Opera’s professional adult singers, children’s chorus, and the Seattle Youth Symphony will perform the opera.
Audiences can enjoy an encore performance of this opera, with piano accompaniment, as part of World Ocean Day (June 8, 2013) at the Seattle Aquarium.
The trilogy’s second opera, performed by the singers with the Seattle Youth Symphony, premieres on April 20, 2013 as part of the Earth Day celebrations at Seattle Center.
The Nature Conservancy is a partner in this event.
The third premiere will happen at McCaw Hall on August 3, 2013, as part of an all-day open house celebrating Seattle Opera’s 2013 Ring Cycle, which begins the next day.

For schools and educational groups, Opera Goes To School starts its next series of performances and residencies in January 2013.
Students at participating schools will explore issues of conservation and endangered species through one of the 40-minute Our Earth operas, brought to life by professional singers in a fully-staged performance featuring vivid scenery and beautiful costumes with piano accompaniment.
The cost is $400, with additional options for deeper educational enrichment.
Schools with choral music, or an interest in developing a choral program, can participate by singing ensemble numbers in each performance.
To learn more or to design a residency for your school or after-school group, contact Barbara Lynne Jamison, Seattle Opera’s Youth Programs Manager, at (206) 676-5564 or


Eric Banks, Composer
“As director of The Esoterics, Eric Banks has played an important role in Seattle’s musical and vocal scene for twenty years,” says Sue Elliott, Seattle Opera’s Education Director. “I’m thrilled that he’ll be composing his first opera for Seattle Opera.”
Eric Banks has garnered significant acclaim as one of the most creative choral composers and directors in the United States for his unwavering commitment to new music for unaccompanied voices.
In 1992, he founded The Esoterics, a professional-caliber chamber chorus of volunteers in Seattle whose mission is to perform and perpetuate contemporary choral music beyond the scope of the established a cappella canon.
He has been a visiting scholar at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Stockholm and Swedish National Radio as well as at the Cama Oriental Institute in Mumbai, India.
In 2010, Banks received the Dale Warland Commission Award for a choral cycle based on climate-change statistics.

Irene Keliher, Librettist
“Irene Keliher’s deep personal and family connections to the Pacific Northwest make her the perfect writer to create libretti for the Our Earth operas,” says Sue Elliott. “I think our community will find her stories and characters familiar yet surprising, entertaining and moving.”
Irene Keliher’s first opera libretto, A Way Home, was premiered by Houston Grand Opera in 2010.
Keliher writes short stories and essays, has just completed a novel, and has published in several literary magazines, among them the New Ohio Review, Quarterly West, the Bellingham Review, and the Mississippi Review.
She has been a teaching artist with Writers in the Schools for six years, teaches college-level composition, and is a 2012 Made At Hugo House writer.
She has received grants and fellowships from the Ragdale Foundation, Houston Arts Alliance, Inprint, and the Thomas J. Watson Foundation.
Awards include the 2010 Tobias Wolff Award for Fiction and the 2009 Potomac Review Fiction Award, and she placed twice in the Atlantic Monthly Student Writing Contest.


Seattle Opera’s tradition of strong education and community engagement programs goes back to founding General Director Glynn Ross, and has been a major focus of Speight Jenkins, General Director since 1983.
Since joining the company in 2010, Education Director Sue Elliott has been expanding the scope of the education department’s offerings in order to broaden and deepen people’s connections with opera and its component arts.

For children and families, Seattle Opera offers Family Day matinees each season.
For a Sunday matinee performance of an age-appropriate opera, tickets for students are available for $15 with the purchase of one full-price adult ticket.
New programs for young people include several Opera Camps.
Opera Time Opera Camps, a literacy-based program for grades 1-3 held on school in-service days, helps early readers and English Language Learners discover ways in which music, singing, movement, and arts and crafts tell a story.
Youth Opera Chorus, Teen Opera Players, and other camps offered in partnership with Seattle Public Theatre engage middle and high school students with the creation and performance of opera—both original works and repertory from or inspired by mainstage performances.

For schools, Seattle Opera’s two flagship programs have long been Opera Goes To School, which brings a touring opera performance and multivisit residencies to K-8 schools, and Experience Opera, which facilitates the teaching of opera in grades 6-12 by offering professional development workshops for educators and bringing students to final dress rehearsals.
Opera Goes To School is expanding this season with the new Our Earth operas; Experience Opera recently expanded to offer tours of Seattle Opera’s costume shop, scenic studio, and McCaw Hall. New this season is a series of Professional Development Workshops for educators from varying subject areas.
The new Opera Time program is now also available as an in-school program ($40 for a 30-minute program serving 25 students in Pre-K through 2nd grade).

For adults, Seattle Opera’s Speakers’ Bureau offers an acclaimed array of multimedia presentations given throughout the region, including but not limited to previews of each mainstage production.
In February, those who want to learn more about Wagner’s Ring, Seattle Opera’s signature work, can attend an advance series of Education Director Sue Elliott’s “Inside the Ring” presentations, which will also be given in August of 2013.

Press Contacts:
Jonathan Dean

Tamara Vallejos

Visuals Contact:
Monte Jacobson


Program Details

Programs for Children and Families

Opera Time One-Day Camp
Who: Grades 1 – 3
Where: Seattle Opera Rehearsal Studio, 200 Terry Ave N
When: March 15 from 9 am-3 pm
How Much: $40 (after care available for an additional fee)
A literacy-based program for early readers and English Language Learners.
Delivered by professional teaching artists, this program features singing, read-aloud storytime, movement, and elements of theater.

Family Programs
Who: Families
Where: McCaw Hall
When: Cinderella Open House, January 5, 10 am- 2 pm (entrance free, paid add-on options)
La bohème Family Workshop, February 23, 10 am ($5 per person entrance fee)
Richard Wagner’s 200th Birthday Party, May 22, time TBA
“Make Some Noise!” Open House, August 3, 10 am – 3 pm (free)
Partners: Seattle Center
Following in the tradition of “The Barber of Seattle” and “Flute-a-palooza,” Seattle Opera offers open houses in advance of family-friendly operas, complete with backstage tours of McCaw Hall and performance opportunities for both serious musicians and beginners.

Family Day Matinees
Who: Families
Where: McCaw Hall
When: Cinderella Family Day Matinee, January 20, 2 pm
La bohème Family Day Matinee, March 10, 2 pm
At these performances, students 18 and under in the company of an adult pay only $15 for a seat. Family Day Matinees also feature special student-oriented activities as well as complimentary admission for young opera-goers to the pre-performance talk.

Our Earth Community Events
Who: All ages
February 10, 2 pm, Concert with Seattle Youth Symphony Concert at Town Hall
Tickets: $10/$20 student/adult
April 20, 12 – 4 pm, Earth Day Celebration at Seattle Center with The Nature Conservancy
June 8, Time TBA, World Ocean Day at Seattle Aquarium
Free with Aquarium admission
August 3, 10 am – 3 pm, “Make Some Noise!” Open House (McCaw Hall)
Partners: Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestras, The Nature Conservancy, Seattle Center, Seattle Aquarium
Next spring the community is invited to enjoy the world premieres of Seattle Opera’s three new Our Earth operas, exploring themes of conservation and Pacific Northwest environments, performed by Seattle Opera’s singers and the Seattle Youth Symphony.

Teen Opera Players
Who: Grades 8-12
Where: Seattle Center
When: January 26-March 9 (schedule at
How Much: $120; early registration price available through December 15
With the guidance of Seattle Opera’s professional musicians, teens learn operatic arias and scenes.
The program also includes opportunities to observe rehearsals of the mainstage production of La bohème, backstage tours, and other behind-the-scenes production elements.

Spring Break Opera Camps
Who: Grades 2-5
Where: Seattle Opera Rehearsal Studio, 200 Terry Ave. N
When: first session April 8-12; second session April 15-19; 9 am – 12:30 pm each day
How Much: $150 per session
Singing, acting, dancing and all-round madcap theatrical fun. We’ll have you performing (even if you never have before!) – and loving it.

Programs for Schools

Who: Grades Pre-K – 2 and English Language Learners
When: School Year
How Much: $40 + optional extras
A literacy-based program for early readers and English Language Learners.
This 30-minute program, delivered in classrooms by professional teaching artists, includes singing, read-aloud storytime, movement, and elements of theater.
For a deeper exploration, we offer multi-visit residencies and can adapt the program to suit any time frame, including after-school and all-day programs.

OPERA GOES TO SCHOOL: Our Earth School Tour
Who: Grades K-8
When: January-June 2013; basic presentation is 50 minutes
How Much: $400 (plus additional options for deeper educational enrichment)
Partners: Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestras, The Nature Conservancy, Seattle Aquarium
Help K-8 students connect science, nature, and the arts with a 40-minute opera, brought to life by professional singers in a fully staged performance featuring vivid scenery and beautiful costumes with piano accompaniment.
Schools with choral music, or an interest in developing a choral program, can participate by singing ensemble numbers in each performance.
Teaching artist visits and residencies are also available.

Who: Grades 6-12
When: through June 2013
How Much: $120/membership
Partners: School districts and home-school groups all over Washington
Participating schools can attend dress rehearsals; tour McCaw Hall, the Scenic Studios, or the Costume Shop; observe the Seattle Opera chorus or orchestra in rehearsal before they get to the stage; and take advantage of professional development for educators.
Seattle Opera’s artists and educators also visit participating schools to give workshops and masterclasses on technical theater, acting, vocal performance, and other subjects.
Workshops cover subjects outside of the fine arts: humanities and science teachers can draw on opera’s many elements to support their teaching goals.

Speakers’ Bureau Programs

Opera Previews
Who: Adults
How Much: Free
Partners: Seattle Public Library, Edmonds Library, Sno-Isle Libraries, South Kitsap Library, Frye Art Museum
Need a quick refresher on an upcoming Seattle Opera mainstage production? Join Seattle Opera educators at a library, museum, café, or community center near you for a witty, informative, hour-long multimedia presentation that covers the basics of history, music, and stagecraft in preparation for your visit to McCaw Hall.

La Cenerentola
Edmonds Library, 1/2/2013, 6:30 pm
Green Lake Library, 1/3/2013, 2 pm
Third Place Books, 1/3/2013, 7 pm
Everett Public Library, 1/4/2013, 2 pm
South Kitsap Library, 1/5/2013, 2:15 pm
Frye Art Museum, 1/6/2013, 2 pm
West Seattle Library, 1/7/2013, 6:30 pm
Freeland Library, 1/8/2013, 12 pm
Coupeville Library, 1/8/2013, 2:30 pm
Ballard Library, 1/9/2013, 2 pm
Seattle Central Library, 1/10/2013, 12 pm

La bohème
Frye Art Museum, 2/3/2013, 2 pm
West Seattle Library, 2/4/2013, 6:30 pm
Third Place Books, 2/5/2013, 7 pm
Green Lake Library, 2/7/2013, 2 pm
South Kitsap Library, 2/9/2013, 2:15 pm
Freeland Library, 2/12/2013, 12 pm
Edmonds Library, 2/13/2013, 6:30 pm
Ballard Library, 2/20/2013, 2 pm
Seattle Central Library, 2/21/2013, 12 pm

La voix humaine and Suor Angelica
South Kitsap Library, 4/20/2013, 2:15 pm
West Seattle Library, 4/22/2013, 6:30 pm
Third Place Books, 4/23/2013, 7 pm
Edmonds Library, 4/24/2013, 6:30 pm
Green Lake Library, 4/25/2013, 2 pm
Frye Art Museum, 4/28/2013, 2 pm
Freeland Library, 4/30/2013, 12 pm
Ballard Library, 5/1/2013, 2 pm
Seattle Central Library, 5/2/2013, 12 pm

Pre-Performance Talks
Who: Ticket-Holders for Mainstage Performances
Where: McCaw Hall
When: 1 ½ hour before every performance
How Much: $7

Everyone learns something new, whether it’s your first opera or your 101st! Join Education Director Sue Elliott on an engaging, entertaining exploration of the context, music, and real-world resonance of each mainstage opera. You’re sure to benefit from her “insider tips” and discussions of theater magic.

Seattle University “Production Insights” Series
Who: Adults
Where: Wyckoff Auditorium, Bannan Science Building at Seattle University
How Much: Free
Partners: Seattle University
When: Tuesday evenings, 7-8:30 pm
1/15: Seen and Not Heard (Supernumeraries)
2/12: At the Helm (Stage Director)
3/19: Silent, Invisible, and Invaluable (Stage Management)
4/16: Let’s Start from Scratch (Composer & Librettist)
5/14: 2013/14 Season Preview

Now in its fourteenth season, Seattle Opera’s adult education series at Seattle University brings together opera-lovers and opera-makers, for an up-close and personal look at this extraordinary art form.

Inside the Ring with Sue Elliott
Who: Adults, particularly those attending the 2013 Ring
Where: Frye Art Museum
When: February 2, 9, 16, and 23, 9:30 am – 12:30 pm
How Much: $100
Partners: Frye Art Museum

A special pre-festival “Inside the Ring” series of talks by Director of Education Sue Elliott.
She’ll bring the Ring to life through an in-depth exploration of the context, music, and real-world resonance of each opera.
These entertaining and engaging 3-hour presentations will take you on a journey inside the music, behind the scenes, and onstage with performers.

Professional Development Programs

Creative Writing, Fairy Tales, and Fluff
Who: Creative Writing Teachers, Arts Specialists, and Teaching Artists
Where: McCaw Hall
When: January 9, 4:30-7 pm
How Much: $35

This workshop, led by Irene Keliher and Barbara Lynne Jamison, will uncover the differences between writing a fairy tale, a script, and a libretto, and offer strategies for teaching children and teens these various skills.
Also includes dinner and admission to the dress rehearsal of La Cenerentola.

Professional Development for Classroom Teachers
Who: Teachers, Arts Specialists, and Teaching Artists
Where: Seattle Opera Rehearsal Studio, 200 Terry Ave N
How Much: Free
When: December 8, 10 – 11:30 am (La Cenerentola)
January 26, 10 – 11:30 am (La bohème)
April 13, 10 – 11:30 am (La voix humaine and Suor Angelica)

These 90-minute professional development workshops guide educators in the discovery of Seattle Opera’s 2012/13 mainstage operas.
We examine the historical context of the opera, explore the music, and build connections to a wide range of disciplines and classroom curricula.
Educators from around the Puget Sound region share different approaches and best practices for classroom work and receive a variety of materials to use in their own class to help further engage students with opera-inspired learning.

Electronic Programming

What: General Director Speight Jenkins shares his insights into each opera, available for streaming or download.
How Much: Free

KING FM Saturday Night Opera
When & Where: Saturdays at 8 pm on KING FM, 98.1, and streamed 24/7 on Classical KING FM’s Seattle Opera Channel,
Opera broadcasts, every Saturday throughout the year! Exclusive live broadcasts of each Seattle Opera production as well as performances from other leading opera companies are hosted by General Director Speight Jenkins and Director of Education Sue Elliott.

Belonging(s) Digital Quilt
Partners: MOHAI, SIFF
Join us for an adventure in community storytelling: an exploration of the stories of our most precious possessions.
If you had to leave your home today, and couldn’t return, what would you want to take with you? Why is that object, memory, or connection to your past so important? For our digital quilt, Seattle Opera invites the community to create and share 3-minute videos that capture the stories of precious possessions.

Social Networking at Seattle Opera
Who: You!
Where:;;;;, and
The people who brought you “If Carmen and her Friends were on Facebook” and the “Orpheus Odyssey”
Scavenger Hunt want you to join the fun.
Watch, listen, learn, and share your love of opera with our online community.

With help from our generous supporters, Seattle Opera is able to cover up to 50% of the costs of all our Education and Community Engagement programs.

About Seattle Opera
Founded in 1963, Seattle Opera is one of the leading opera companies in the United States.
The company is recognized internationally for its theatrically compelling and musically accomplished performances, especially the Opera’s interpretations of the works of Richard Wagner.
Since 1975, Seattle Opera has presented 38 cycles of the Ring (three different productions), in addition to acclaimed productions of all the other major operas in the Wagner canon. Seattle Opera has achieved the highest per capita attendance of any major opera company in the United States, and draws operagoers from four continents and 50 states.


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