November 10, 2009 |

Phillips students learn that a night at the opera can be a lot of fun

The Benedum Center downtown was alive with laughter on Friday, Oct. 30, as students and families from Phillips Elementary enjoyed the Pittsburgh Opera's performance of Falstaff.

Fifteen music students from Phillips Elementary were accompanied by siblings, family members, and Brashear Association staff as part of the Pittsburgh Opera's Opera Connections program. The Brashear Association partners with Opera Connections to encourage neighborhood students to share in the excitement of operatic performance after attending a pre-performance preparatory workshop.

The workshop, held at the Brashear Association one week before the performance, highlighted the technical and musical concepts behind performances, the historical context of Falstaff, the composer's biography, and an in-depth look at the storyline. Participants even got a chance to hear a live opera demonstration by one of the Pittsburgh Opera's educators.

Falstaff, Giuseppe Verdi's final opera, was a perfect way to kick off the 2009-2010 Opera Connections program season. Defying the stereotype that portrays all opera as serious and tragic, Verdi had audience members laughing from start to finish with his tale of bloated egos, identical love letters, practical jokes, and comical characters.

Set in Elizabethan England, Falstaff combines the characters and storylines from Shakespeare's Henry IV and The Merry Wives of Windsor. The main protagonist, Sir John Falstaff played by Mark Delevan, was a hit with student opera goers.

"Falstaff had me laughing the whole opera with his constant practical joking!" commented one Phillips student.

The next Opera Connections event for students and families will be the Pittsburgh Opera's performance of Carmen in March 2010. Those who are interested in attending this upcoming performance or would like more information on the Opera Connections program or educational and/or holiday assistance programs at the Brashear Association should contact Mari Dumbaugh, education coordinator, at the Brashear Association at 412-431-2236 or mdumbaugh@ brashearassociation.org.

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