On the evening of Friday the 27th of February I attended a dress rehearsal of the Florida Grand Opera’s new production of Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers. I was invited to the rehearsal by FGO’s Public and Media Relations Manager Brittany Mazzurco. She was interested in increasing public awareness of the company’s Education and Outreach program led by Cerise Sutton.

Brittany Mazzurco

Brittany Mazzurco

Attending this rehearsal were students from about 25 middle and high schools in the Miami area. They were better prepared and dressed than the typical opera audience of today. They were also much more enthusiastic. When Cerise read the names of each of the schools their students cheered like their football team had just won the state championship.

Cerise Sutton

Cerise Sutton

They seemed to follow the action with attention and understanding of the story. They applauded at all the right places and with great enthusiasm. But their biggest response was to the curtain calls. Each of the four principals received cheers and wild applause that would have stirred Caruso.

Opera is an endangered art form. Its audience is graying. Young people don’t readily take to it. Thus, programs like FGO’s are an important part of the effort to revitalize opera. Of course, it would also help if somebody figured out how to write new operas that the public wants to hear. Another problem is that staging opera is a very expensive business. Even if you get young people interested in opera, there has to be a way to allow them to buy tickets at an affordable price. But price is likely a minor issue. Young people seem able to find the funds needed to attend a rock concert that appeals to them. So getting kids interested is likely the most import key to allowing opera to continue until the long awaited emergence of the next Verdi or Puccini.

In addition to bringing students to their dress rehearsals FGO runs a literacy program. Its description (taken from FGO’s website) is below. Cerise Sutton’s contact information is below so if you wish to support their programs or participate in them you can get in touch with her.

Florida Grand Opera (FGO) continues to solidify its commitment to education and the community by partnering with the Miami-Dade County Public Library System to offer a FREE literacy program running through the 2014–15 season.

Director of Education at Florida Grand Opera, Cerise Sutton, says “Florida Grand Opera’s education mission is to educate, entertain, and encourage a community of opera lovers—and future opera lovers. We’re thrilled to have the opportunity to do just that by stepping off of the stage and into community libraries to teach kids the importance and fun of reading.” The Read Along, Sing a Song program is designed for elementary school aged children, walking them through a pre-selected story and incorporating elements from different artistic disciplines found within opera. As the children read, they may be instructed to pick up an instrument, follow a dance, or sing to a melody during a high point of the story, making reading even more engaging and fun.

The sessions are led by FGO’s Teaching Artist, Monica Kurtz. Ms. Kurtz is a native of South Florida and is very excited to be joining the FGO Education Department this season. “I am looking forward to sharing my love music, movement, and reading with young children across the South Florida area,” she adds.

Kurtz holds a Bachelor of Music in Music Education from the University of Tampa (2005) and a Masters of Music in Music Education from the University of Miami (2012). She has 10 years of experience teaching all ages, including early childhood, elementary, and high school. She is currently working as the Music Director at Mater Academy of International Studies, where she teaches students in 2nd–9th Grades. She is also an instructor with the Frost MusicTime Program at the University of Miami, a program of music learning and enjoyment for children birth to age eight.

Designed to cater to underserved communities, the program is offered at no cost at libraries in Miami-Dade. To maximize the learning experience, sessions are limited to 25 children each. Reservations can be made in advance by contacting FGO’s Director of Education, Cerise Sutton, at csutton@fgo.org or (305) 854-1643 ext. 1100. For specific dates and other details, see the table below.