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History of the Guilds of The Santa Fe Opera, Inc.

The Guilds and Opera Education: 1959–1990

Beginning in 1959, an Opera for Youth program marked the first endeavor of Guild, Inc., “to make opera available to an audience which otherwise might have neither the means nor the incentive to experience the art form.” Mrs. Winfield Scott’s early report states further… “what I feel must be the next phase of this program — better preparation of the youngsters for the opera they are to attend.”

And from this germ of an idea, a veritable institution evolved — the Education Committee of the Guilds of the Santa Fe Opera. The Opera for Youth performances were first sponsored by the Association of the Santa Fe Opera; Mr. Edward Purrington of that organization (he was the first business manager, later in charge of development and public relations) was the one initially concerned with educating the young people for the performances. At the November, 1968 board meeting he “hoped for the presentation of lectures, demonstrations, and other education programs all over the state.” He specifically mentioned the possibility of setting up a “coordinating council” for this project, on which a representative from each Guild would serve, to help in the above-mentioned plans, and to help by way of coordination between the Opera Association of New Mexico and the New Mexico Opera Guild, Inc. In early 1969, he outlined a program to be set up for school children, with “The World of Opera” presented as a general introduction; and in late 1970, he had made available a traveling photographic exhibit, giving a complete spectrum of operatic events. Also in 1970, in collaboration with the Division of Continuing Education of the University of New Mexico, and the Albuquerque Opera Guild, he participated in a lecture series at UNM; following the lectures (there were 7 in February, March and April), there was a tour of the opera facilities.

In 1971, Guild, inc. established for the first time an Education Committee, chaired by Mrs. Charles Kempter. The education program consisted of the taped narration of the stories of each of the operas to be presented; two of these were illustrated by 35mm colored slides. Written for 4th, 5th, and 6th grade elementary school students, these were distributed to all Guilds. This project was aided by a grant from the New Mexico Arts Commission.

Literally thousands of children benefited from these programs; for instance, almost 2,000 participated in Gallup. The list of towns makes interesting reading now: Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Los Alamos, Española, Las Vegas, Taos, Farmington, Dulce, Chama and Carlsbad. After schools closed for the summer, various clubs borrowed the material to prepare children intending to go to the Youth Opera.

Mrs. Kempter and her committee greatly increased the scope of the education program in 1972. Several changes and additions were noticed:

  1. Taped narrations were accompanied by musical excerpts of each opera. The program was sent to individual Guilds earlier, in March.
  2. There was a separate tape for each opera (formerly all on one roll), and all 4 were illustrated by slides.
  3. A short, general program “What is Opera?” was added; it gave an idea of the many processes involved in putting an opera together. A slide show, it examined backstage, costumes and scenery, the orchestra, conductors, and singers.
  4. A packet of guidelines and suggestions for music teachers using the program was sent to each guild, in re the composer, characters, and locale of the opera.

Albuquerque was particularly diligent in placing the program in the public schools, enabling the students to better understand and appreciate the opera performances. And, a master stereo tape was produced for use on radio stations in New Mexico.

The same programs were used in 1973, expanded to include further description of what makes an opera, as well as additional narration in the Spanish language. In 1974, Mrs. Robert Neidorf succeeded Mrs. Kempter as chairman. The programs continued to be offered in elementary schools; there was one especially interesting note: the Las Vegas Guild reproduced the tapes on cassettes, and played them on the bus trip to the opera. Mr. Purrington was instructor at “Santa Fe Opera Previews” at the College of Santa Fe; in June and July there were lectures on eight Monday evenings, for adults ($15). These included a bonus — a guided tour of the Opera theater, and one working rehearsal For young people, there were lectures on six Saturday mornings, also in June and July ($0.50 each, $2.50 series).

In 1975, under co-chairmen Mrs. Jane King and Mrs. Neidorf, the program was broadened to include televised as well as live performances by the Ron and Mary Kay Day Puppet Shows. The four-part program presented:

  1. “Kaleidoscope,” produced by Channel 5 TV, featuring the Puppets, was aired 7 times during the first two weeks of April; elementary school teachers scheduled showings during classes, all over New Mexico. This showed an actual trip by TV People and the Puppets to the Santa Fe Opera; backstage facilities were filmed. (Note: The Santa Fe Bicentennial celebration included the Day Puppet Show on opera.)
  2. A live Puppet Show, written by the Days; almost 9,000 children saw the 32 performances in 11 days. In addition to the regular Guild cities, the show traveled to the eight northern Pueblos and Pojoaque, Velarde, Dixon, Bernalillo, Chimayo, Tesuque, and Abiquiu. Jane King reported, “I doubt if anyone in northern New Mexico can step out the front door without falling over a Ron and Mary Kay Day Puppet Show during the first half of May.” Alan Pearson was Master of Ceremonies at each show. Part of the performance included a demonstration of actual opera costumes, such as squirrel costumes from L’Enfant et Les Sortileges. Costs were shared by the schools and local guilds.
  3. Slide/tape programs, used by music teachers in the schools, were also lent to public libraries and youth groups.
  4. Backstage tours conducted by volunteer docents gave children an understanding of the mechanics of opera productions.

Also available was Hansel and Gretel, an opera for elementary school children, using three singers and a pianist. This was rented from Youth Concerts of N.M., Inc., of Albuquerque, and was shown in Taos and Santa Clara. The two sets of lectures, for youth and adults, at the College of Santa Fe, were conducted by Alan Pearson, who was on the Governor’s staff as liaison between schools and cultural organizations.

Part of his presentation, concerning operas being performed in 1975, was embellished by live music and actors. There were 10 adult sessions ($25), and 6 for Youth ($15). In addition, Mr. Pearson presented opera education programs throughout the state, during the school year. There was a $500 New Mexico Arts Commission grant for the programs and Youth Opera, and in Taos, the Rotary Club expressed interest in donating for a puppet show or Youth Opera trips.

Under the leadership of Mrs. King and Mrs. Lynde Chambles, in 1976 there were more mighty achievements. The program included the second year of “Kaleidoscope” on Channel 5 TV — Nancy Johnson, teacher-producer, and the Day Puppeteers presented a 25 minute Opera for Youth show, at which Maria Benitez, who appeared in La Traviata that season, appeared as part of the program. 240 teachers were notified to schedule this show for classroom viewing, and a videotape cassette was produced, to be subsequently used as part of the education materials package. The major production was a traveling Puppet Show, supplemented with a 10-minute slide/tape presentation of The Mother of Us All, and an exhibit of Opera costumes, which were tried on by children in the audience. In 10 days there were 33 performances, in Santa Fe, Los Alamos, the Española Valley, Taos, and the eight northern Pueblos, reaching over 9,260 elementary school children. An $825 mini-grant from NEA and the N.M. Arts Commission enabled Guild, Inc. to schedule 15 of these presentations in Albuquerque, and southern New Mexico communities, reaching 3,533 persons. There were six additional performances not sponsored by Guild, Inc.; the total audience that year was 14,427.

Prior to each Youth Opera in Santa Fe, Mrs. Juanita Sena scheduled four successful lecture programs at the Public Library. Backstage tours were offered, an invaluable and popular educational tool, which gave children an understanding of the mechanics of opera production. At the De Vargas Center Fountain, there was a Youth Opera and Education display, and one puppet show; coins collected from the fountain were donated to Opera for Youth. The Public Service Company of N.M. announced the opera education program in bulletins enclosed with current bills, and a new project was undertaken by the Committee - the publication of a children’s activity book concerning opera, called “Operantics,” ($3) to be used as an education project, and for money-raising; 10,000 fliers were distributed to publicize it.

In 1977, Jane King, with co-chairman Ursula Boatright, continued to guide the education efforts. The Days prepared a new Puppet Show “What is an Opera?,” and presented it in five guild cities, as well as at libraries and community centers. A “suitcase” tour was in the early stage of experimentation: a mini-opera with dolls, without action, accompanied by narrative tapes and music; it was proposed to circulate it among middle or high schools. A speakers bureau was organized, to preview operas for adults, and slides of 1977 productions were prepared. Governor Jerry Apodaca proclaimed April 30th Opera Day in New Mexico; in Albuquerque, the puppet show was presented in Civic Plaza, and literature about Youth Opera was distributed. The board of the Opera Association granted the education program $2,500, and Levi-Strauss inquired about donating $5-6,000 for equipment if a guild could produce programs in Portales/Clovis or Hobbs/Roswell, where they have plants.

Information for 1978 is more complete. Jane King Mack and Ursula Boatright again chaired the Education Committee. Previous programs persisted: backstage tours, the sale of Operantics, slide/tape presentations, and the mini-opera, short version of Carmen with dolls on a puppet stage, prepared by the Albuquerque committee, under Mrs. James Dahl. The Days’ Puppet Shows “The Magic of Opera” added magic tricks this year; they presented a total of 28 shows before 7,398 persons, at schools, and at Opera Day.

An exciting, new, 45-minute program, “ACTION: OPERA,” a live performance using costumes, voice, and piano, with a discussion of theater activities: sets, costumes, make-up, featured Janice Felty and Christopher Berg. The education committee wanted to expand the program to the young adult level, and the vehicle proposed was a series of “informances” by Felty and Berg, “introducing opera on a beautiful but low-key level.” 50 performances were given, in 26 days, covering 15 communities, and reaching an audience of 7,500, more or less. These took place in high schools, junior highs, colleges, at Guild events, and at Levi-Strauss plants. An outstanding feature of this program was the travel arrangements: ten local businessmen donated an airplane, fuel, and a pilot, for trips to nine communities. Final tally: 1,075 miles by car, 4,151 miles by plane, and 66 by helicopter! It was hoped this program would act as catalyst, to form new guilds, or add members-at-large.

In June, the Santa Fe Guild held its traditional Open House at the Ranch, for the public: “ACTION: OPERA” (Felty and Berg), as well as the Days’ Puppet Show were presented. There was a parade of SFO costumes, and backstage tours.

The $4,000 Levi-Strauss grant stipulated that the program be put on at five Levi-Strauss plants, and it was: at Roswell, Hobbs, Clovis, Albuquerque, and El Paso. $3,500 was received from the N.M. Arts Commission to help support three programs: ACTION: OPERA, the Puppets, and Hansel and Gretel, a traveling, participatory production. A new source of funding was investigated — NEH: National Endowment for the Humanities — in particular, for planning and implementation grants for youth education. Las Vegas Guild received funding for the Puppets from their school board, and Albuquerque raised money from admission charges.

Mrs. Neel Storr, 1979 Education chairman, commented that she and 6 or 7 committee members would “do all the things (one) Jane Mack did last year.” The programs reached over 20,000 people, and - a newsworthy note - showed a profit of $4,520. 60 presentations were given by the selected performers in pre-school, elementary, junior and high schools, at college seminars, businessmen’s groups, women’s clubs, senior citizens’ centers, and numerous Pueblos. In addition to the Guild cities, programs were presented in Clovis, Roswell, Grants, and Acoma Pueblo. There was conspicuous assistance from the Levi-Strauss and Skaggs Foundations, and from the N.M. Arts Commission, making the programs free to the Guilds. Mrs. Storr asked, and received approval for separate budgets and checking accounts for the Education Committee.

ACTION: OPERA, and the Puppets were again offered, and slides/tapes were made available for The Magic Flute and The Grand Duchess of Gerolstein; the introductory slide/tape “Let’s Go to the Opera” was redone. A new program "Opera Can Be Fun" was presented by 25 children of the northern N.M. Children’s Choir; and John Reardon, Metropolitan Opera baritone, with Ellen Vincent and Bob Chickering, put on ten performances in February, of “Why do we have Music?,” an introduction to opera.

In 1980, under Barbara Mautz, there were 4 suitcase shows and 4 units of Hansel and Gretel available as elementary programs. Drew Field, technical director of the Opera, gave 45-minute slide/talk presentations in many of the Guild cities before high school and college students, and to several adult groups. Mrs. Mautz prepared slide/tape shows of The Barber of Seville and La Boheme, which were offered to each Guild, by Mr. Ron Chittim.

The 1981 chairman was Mary Honor Rivin. Ron Chittim continued to present children’s programs in Santa Fe, Taos, and to POP. In Santa Fe, The Barber of Seville presentation was combined with an exhibition of the art of make-up, with audience participation, this in 17 schools, in the 4th, 5th, and 6th grades. The Hansel and Gretel kits were also employed, and at Opera Day at the Ranch, still sponsored by the Santa Fe Guild, there were programs and tours for children, although all ages were invited.

For 1982 and 1983, Gene Rush served as chairman of the Education Committee. Mrs. Mautz again prepared slide/tape shows, this time for The Marriage of Figaro, and Die Fledermaus: these were shown at schools, libraries, and to civic organizations. $16,000 was budgeted for the programs (1982); in the planning stage was a program employing two singers to travel about the state with a slide show. Ron Chittim, who had been taking programs to Santa Fe schools, as well as to outlying towns, was engaged as state director. Gene Rush offered an opera appreciation course at the Los Alamos branch of UNM, and also taught a class in the high school. He lectured to the Santa Fe Guild on the 1982 opera season, and also prepared a slide show, with descriptive notes, of the history of the Santa Fe Opera; this was made available to the Guilds. In 1983, Gino De Lilla, tenor, and Celina Sanchez, soprano, were engaged to tour the state; they presented a varied program, with singing, piano, and slides pertaining to the 1983 season. The Metropolitan Opera Guild offers “opera boxes,” which include music, teaching aides, and film strips; the education committee ordered 11 boxes for The Magic Flute, to be used by each Guild. Sharon Geist shared five suitcase shows of Carmen — dolls and scenery, with tape narration, portable; she invited schools in Eagle Nest and Cimarron, as part of the outreach program.

1984 and 1985, under the aegis of Mr. William Hinrichs, were busy years indeed. There were 4 puppet shows available for the schools and Sharon Geistgave a demonstration of The Magic Flute puppet show at a Board meeting at the Four Hills Country Club in Albuquerque.

De Lilla and Sanchez again toured the state, and the Met boxes for The Marriage of Figaro were employed. In November 1983, Marty Noss (Guild Liaison, Opera Staff) and Bill Hinrichs visited the Education department of the Metropolitan Opera Guild in New York. The Education committee proposed giving school teachers in-service training in ways of presenting the world of opera to their students; a day-long workshop was held at the Ranch for Guild members who would participate in this program. Bill Hinrichs’ opera presentations helped promote attendance at Youth Operas; numerous lectures were given (February through July) at Guild cities, schools, and at the College of Santa Fe by Bill, Ben Hazard, Gene Rush, and Helen Vanni. These same “stars” gave “Opera Previews” in summer at the College of Santa Fe, on four Tuesday evenings ($15, single sessions $4) with a bonus of a backstage tour. Radio station KLSK-FM featured operas of the season on five consecutive Sunday evenings in February and March. Synopses of the operas were mailed with the Guild, Inc. Newsletter. By 1984, Opera Day at the Ranch seemed to be under the auspices of Guild, Inc., with Marie Smith, Hospitality chairman. Entertainment was varied: the Santa Fe Children’s Choir, a band concert, Prince Ballet, backstage tours, and a fashion show of opera costumes comprised the program, as well as everyone’s favorite, singer Jacki McCarty. Attendees brought picnic lunches, and Pepsi, beer, and wine were available for purchase.

Early in 1984, a Long Range education planning committee was formed. Ideas for the following year were proposed:

  1. forming a corps of Guild members state-wide who will take over the job of giving school teachers a session of in-service training in regarding opera;
  2. training young, singing actors for operatic representations in our schools;
  3. staging on Opera Day, 1985, a performance on the Opera stage.

In 1985, the committee sought to expand Opera Day, to make it the culmination of year-long education efforts, and to gear the whole day to children and parents. “Let’s Put on an Opera,” written by the committee, and directed by Hazard and Vanni, kicked off the program; a scene from Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro demonstrated to children, in an entertaining way, what it takes to put on an opera. The singers were those who had been touring the schools as part of the education program.

19,640 children and adults were involved that year in opera activities. In addition to “Let’s Put on an Opera,” the committee designed and produced live opera productions for the schools and communities, puppet operas, workshops for volunteers and teachers, opera cassettes with teaching notes, and a lecture series. Two booklets were published: “Opera Goes to School,” an invitation to an opera workshop for New Mexico teachers, and “Opera Workshop at the Ranch,” for Guild, Inc. facilitators who can assist teachers in bringing an exciting opera experience into their classrooms. Two professional traveling companies visited schools:

  1. An introduction to The Marriage of Figaro was the focus of the program presented by Gino De Lilla and Celina Sanchez;
  2. Marc and Jeanne Mouchet’s “Opera Mosaic” introduced a variety of composers and operatic styles.

The Marriage of Figaro was also presented with Met Opera boxes, and by a Puppet Opera created cassette, “Introducing Opera” was designed by the committee. The four Hinrichs, Rush and Vanni, again previewed the season to adult audiences.

Approximately 850 people attended “Let’s Put on an Opera,” 6,950 saw the traveling companies’ performances, 45 Guild volunteers attended the Opera Workshop at the Ranch, 4,100 were exposed to Opera through classroom resources provided by the committee, and 7,600 watched the puppet opera of Figaro. Six students from the World College at Las Vegas took puppet opera skills learned in Sharon Geist’s workshop back to their respective countries.

An NEA grant for $7,000 implemented the statewide programs by the touring groups, and another $3,500 helped transport children from outlying areas to Youth Operas.

For the next five years, Mrs. Shirley Genther undertook to guide the ever-expanding program. In November 1985, the Education Committee was invited to present a workshop for the statewide conference of Language Arts Teachers, this to provide teachers with new ways to integrate opera into their curricula, with special emphasis on elementary schools. In 1986, on Opera Day, there was a stage performance of The Case of the Bewildered Bat, followed by a ballet performance, Sharon Geist’s puppet show of Die Fledermaus, a costume show, and backstage tours; over 700 people were entertained. Opera Mosaic, featuring Paul Murray and Linda Ewing, performed in many schools. The Opera Previews were comprised of 5 dialogues, by 10 participating artists — singers, costume and set designers, a composer, director, and conductor, and producer — who talked about the season’s operas from their unique perspectives. At the Museum of Fine Arts, where these lectures were given, there were, at the same time, exhibits of SFO sets and costumes, arranged by Anne Noss, with the Museum staff.

In 1987, Opera Mosaic was performed in Guild cities - 26 performances before 8,300 persons. There were opera tours for groups of school children, and The Marriage of Figaro puppet show. On Opera Day at the Ranch, the stage presentation "So You Want to be an Opera Star?" was narrated by John Reardon, Master of Ceremonies. A 35mm video was made that day, and copies were made available to the Guilds. Following this performance, there was over $3,000 in ticket sales at the box office.

In all, 12,847 children and adults were introduced to the world of opera. There were two new events in 1987:

1. Opera Mosaic performed to an SRO audience at the Santa Fe Community Theater;
2. Mosaic was taped at Channel 2 TV, to be distributed for:
     a. follow-up classroom activities after a live performance
     b. as an introduction to opera in schools where the live performance is not available.

And did you know, there is a Girl Scout badge for Opera, which requires regular attendance at Youth Opera and Opera Day at the Ranch?

The eight noontime Opera Preview Conversations, organized by Tom Morris, attracted nearly 1,000 people; several lectures were Standing Room Only. A two-week pilot program which incorporated opera into the curriculum was undertaken by reading and language arts teachers at Capshaw Junior High School in Santa Fe; this led to its nomination by the Santa Fe school board for the New Mexico Excellence in Education award. Truman Junior High in Albuquerque and Alameda Junior High in Santa Fe implemented their own two-week opera project; 950 students and 32 teachers were involved, and the prime mover was Mrs. Betty Hallgren.

In 1988, 13,000± people in Pueblos and Guild communities were reached by the education programs; additional hundreds attended Opera Day and the three Youth Operas. Over 800 heard the summer lectures; the cumulative attendance figure was judged to be 20,000. 36 Opera Mosaics were perforrned in schools, pueblos, a university, and a shopping mall; 15 puppet shows entertained 2,000 children. Revenues from the Education programs, Youth Operas, and Docent program were $19,860, expenditures $17,409. The Education Committee celebrated 30 years of Youth Opera with an Opera Day presentation, “Come to a Birthday Party,” a capsule of Youth Opera highlights. Also on that day, Sharon Geist presented a puppet show, and the Il Trovatore video. At the Museum of Fine Arts, the Discussion series, consisting of four presentations in June provided an introduction to the operas. They were presented by Charles Jarden of the opera staff, and the remaining five (July and August), which featured members of the SFO artistic staff, focused on the production of each opera.

There was a special program in Albuquerque in January 1988: an hour of excerpts from Opera Mosaic was performed at UNM for the teachers and students attending the annual conference of New Mexico’s music educators; this event was initiated by Mrs. Eva Aschenbrenner, Education Chairman of the Santa Fe Guild. The title of the presentation was “Opera from the Inside Out,” later this production traveled to various high schools.

Mrs. Genther reported that this year her committee could only begin to fill the many requests for performances and workshops, "“creating a demand for opera education, a primary goal four years ago, now entails an obligation to respond to the demand which now exists.”

And in 1989, the program continued to grow. The one-act operas — Opera Mosaics — were presented in 7 guild cities, in 47 schools and pueblos, to 15,650 children and teachers. 4,400 attended three Youth Operas, more than 1,000 enjoyed Opera Day, and Sharon Geist’s audio/visual presentations in 15 Albuquerque schools reached 3,000. And finally, 1,400 adults attended the 10 Opera Lectures/Conversations presented by Tom Morris. This meant a grand total of 25,450 people!

There were two Opera Mosaics. Jeanne Mouchet and Paul Murray appeared in elementary schools in La Serva Padrona. And the Junior High and High Schools were treated to The Face on the Barroom Floor, with singers Jeanne and Marc Mouchet, Douglas Blakely, and pianist Ron Grinage. Teachers were provided with newly designed packets of curriculum-related materials to be used in preparatory and follow-up activities. The programs distributed to Youth Opera attendees were organized and written by Shirley Genther, Robert Baustian, Bill Hinrichs, and James Smith, and were designed and contributed by Sunstone Press. Ron Kron was appointed by Guilds, Inc. President Delores Thomas to chair a new committee: Youth Membership. The exciting consequence was “Welcome to the Opera World” — WOW — to provide an inducement for junior high and high school students, as well as those of college age, to become junior members of the Guilds of the Santa Fe Opera.

Shirley Genther reported a “First” — at the May meeting of the Board of Directors of The Santa Fe Opera, members became acquainted with the Guilds’ education program, and viewed a performance of The Face on the Barroom Floor. And there were two more firsts — this performance was also presented at the main facility of the Santa Fe Public Library to an audience of children and adults, and shortly thereafter, at the Lab theater at Los Alamos.

At the May board meeting of Guilds, Inc., Bob Sykes, Regional Director of (the then-named) Opera Guilds International, presented a Certificate of Excellence from OGI recognizing the Guilds of the Santa Fe Opera for the most outstanding education program in the Southwest/Pacific Region, for 1989; (there are 19 guilds in the region). And finally, to crown a year of real achievement, grants from the opera professionals organization, OPERA America, and Very Special Arts New Mexico funded an opera-making project at Taft Middle School in Albuquerque: Coyote Tales from New Mexico’s Pueblos provided the stories from which handicapped and non-handicapped students created mini-operas.

Proof of the success of these programs is manifested in many ways, and will be even more apparent as the children so entertained and informed become adults, and appreciative supporters of Opera. Gratifying and illuminating are the many letters the educators have received from young audiences. The following several quotations will encourage further imaginative efforts on the part of the stellar education committee.

After a recent performance of Fortune’s Favorites in Albuquerque:

Thank you for bringing the opera to Lincoln. I really loved it. The acting and music were excellent. After seeing your opera I’m very interested in seeing another, and maybe being in one myself.
      Sincerely, J. Lynne

Thank you for bringing the opera to Lincoln Mid-School. I ’relly’ want you to know that I loved your opera. I thought the characters were right for the play, and played their parts ’relly’ well! I’m not ’relly’ into opera, but this one changed my mind. It was funny, romantic, sad all into one. This letter is just to tell you you were great!
      Sincerely, Dianca

This one from Agua Fria Elementary School in Santa Fe, upon hearing La Serva Padrana:

Thanks for the wonderful opera you put on for us. The actors did a very good job. I really enjoyed it. That was the first opera I have ever seen. I hope I get to see one again.
      Your friend, Chris

From El Paso, in 1990:

This opera was great! I used to think operas were a waste of time — but you guys (and girls) proved me wrong. I thank you very much.
      Sincerely, Daniel

and from Taos Junior High School, 1983:

Thank you for coming, and I enjoyed your performance. It shows that music can be a wonderful thing in life. I hope to go to the Santa Fe Opera some day…
      Thank you, Pamela Sue

Before I really didn’t know what opera sounded like, but I found that it is very beautiful. I am definitely attending the opera this summer.
      Sincerely, Dawn

A few years ago, elementary school children from Los Alamos toured backstage:

I enjoyed the tour of the Santa Fe Opera with the 1773 chairs! That’s a lot! I enjoyed the hidrolic (sic) lift. It was awesome. The wig shop was strange. What I thought was really neat was the 12 trap doors. I never thought that an opera would have trap doors. Thanks again! The tour of the Santa Fe Opera was the best experience of my life.
      Your friend, Clareann

Thank you for taking me to see the back of the opera. I learned that the first Santa Fe Opera burned down. I also learned that the stage had trap doors and has two basements. My favorite one was the scenery storage because it had a lot of fake things that looked real. I liked the opera so much that I want to come back.
      Your friend, Steven

Thank you for touring us. Seeing all the chairs was neat — all 1773, and they were cold too. I liked the dressing room and the mirrors with lights. I would like to be a singer some day. I think it would be fun with all the lights shining on me.
      Sincerely, Melissa

It’s great to be appreciated; the letters are convincing that the education program is really working. One last note, on the backstage tour:

Thank you for showing us the Opera House. It was really neat. What I liked best was the snack bar. I also liked the orchestra pit, practice rooms A, B, C, and the story of John Crosby. I hope I can go to the opera this summer. I hope to see you again. Oh, two more things to say — I loved the way you talked clearly and you made everything fun!
      Love, Anna