Utah Opera "adopts" West High School to give students access to professional development opportunities in the performing arts

As part of its parent organization’s commitment to supporting youth engagement in the arts, Utah Opera announced it will be “adopting” West High School Fine Arts for the 2019-20 season and school year. The “adoption”…

As part of its parent organization’s commitment to supporting youth engagement in the arts, Utah Opera announced it will be “adopting” West High School Fine Arts for the 2019-20 season and school year.

The “adoption” includes mentoring opportunities by Utah Opera in-house artisans and crafts people, and rare access for high school arts students in the processes behind creating professional opera productions, from observing rehearsals to learning marketing savvy. Last year, Utah Symphony’s Music Director Thierry Fischer “adopted” Cottonwood High School orchestra students, coming into their classroom for several workshop sessions culminating in a student performance of Stravinsky’s “Firebird” suite that he conducted live to other Utah schools via live stream.

“Our goal is to raise a broad awareness that Utah Opera is incredibly active in providing music education programs for students in our statewide community,” said Utah Symphony | Utah Opera Education and Community Outreach Director Paula Fowler. “Utah Opera Resident Artists provide live, professional opera experiences to students in 150-175 Utah schools every year, and we are dedicated to serving all of the school districts across the state on a regular rotation. Our collaboration with West High School this season involves our entire opera staff and helps us provide a deep and multi-layered experience for the performing arts students at one school. We are thrilled to be able to provide this for West High.”

This unique project will draw attention to the Utah Opera’s devotion to music education. Supported in part by legislative funding, Utah Opera Resident Artists performed 163 programs for elementary and high school students across Utah last year; nearly 63,000 Utah students in 2018-19 got to hear the Utah Opera Resident Artists live in their schools. The organization also provides access for students to the final dress rehearsal for each opera, and features programs for special population audiences including a night at the opera for visually impaired audiences, and access for families affected by autism.

“The West High theatre students have had so many opportunities already this year! They have toured the rehearsal and storage space, workshopped with the Technical Director, Head Costumer, and Publicity,” said West High drama teacher Stacey Hutchings, who is overseeing the program implementation at the school. “Some of the students had never experienced opera or live theatre, and they were able to attend a performance of ‘La traviata.’… The experiences and opportunities that these students are participating in are once in a lifetime!”

During the program, West High students will have the opportunity to consult with Senior Technical Director Jared Porter, Principal Coach and Pianist Carol Anderson, and Costume Director Verona Green for their input on the upcoming school production of “Wizard of Oz” in November. The high school music club choral arm will also get a visit from Utah Opera Chorusmaster Michaella Calzaretta at their “Wizard of Oz” chorus rehearsal, where she will teach different warmup exercises and suggestions to enhance their musical education, diction, and performance expressiveness.

“Paula and Michaella has been a joy to partner with in this “musical” endeavor! Michaella has brought to the chorus a fresh pedagogical perspective that has inspired us to sing with a new level of excitement and articulation,” said West High choral director Melinda Benson. “I have especially appreciated Paula’s willingness and Michaella’s hands on involvement to reach out to us to have Utah opera artists join our A’cappella members in song for our own special concert on March 17th at West High. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your beautiful partnership!”

Technical high school students will have the opportunity to sit backstage to listen to all the stage manager calls during the opera performances and watch the action behind the curtain. Students will also serve without speaking or singing roles as “extras” on stage (called “supernumeraries”) in “The Barber of Seville” in March.

One student who has already had the opportunity to observe all the backstage action during “La traviata” wrote, “There’s no better place to learn and grow than in a professional technical environment. Thank you so much for this unparalleled opportunity.”


To observe Utah Opera Chorusmaster Michaella Calzaretta and West High chorus students on Oct. 22 at 3:15 PM, please RSVP to Renee Huang, Utah Symphony | Utah Opera Director of Communications. Several students will be available for interview as well as Paula Fowler, Michaella Calzaretta and West High choral director Melinda Benson.

About Utah Symphony | Utah Opera Education Department

The Education Department of Utah Symphony | Utah Opera creates and oversees opportunities in music for audiences of all ages, with special emphasis on musical experiences for K-12 students and teachers. As the largest performing arts organization in Utah, USUO promotes a broad public knowledge and appreciation of music through more than 30 state-assisted community outreach programs, amounting to more than 600 performances annually. USUO Education serves more than 7,000 teachers and 155,000 students each year throughout Utah by bringing both symphony and opera programs, free of charge, to every school district in Utah over a three- to five-year rotation. For more information, visit www.usuoeducation.org or call 801.869.9091.




About Utah Opera

Utah Opera, established by Glade Peterson in 1978, has been part of the Utah community for 40 years and engages audiences through inspiring operatic performances. The opera company presents four annual productions at the historic Janet Quinney Lawson Capitol Theatre and regularly partners with Utah Symphony and other organizations for special presentations. In addition to producing classic works from the operatic repertoire, Utah Opera also emphasizes the importance of contemporary American opera, with notable achievements including the 1996 world premiere of David Carlson’s “Dreamkeepers” and the co-commissioning and Western U.S. premiere of Ricky Ian Gordon’s “The Grapes of Wrath” in 2007, presenting the Western U.S. premiere of Jeremy Howard Beck and Stephanie Fleischmann’s “The Long Walk” in 2016, the creation of a new production of Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer’s “Moby-Dick” in 2018 that featured a versatile set designed to adapt to a wide range of theater stages, and an all-new production of Rachel Porter and Nicholas Wright’s “The Little Prince,” premiered on the Janet Quinney Lawson Capitol Theatre stage in January 2019.

Utah Opera operates a full production studio where productions are rehearsed and costumes, props and set pieces are designed, made, rented out and stored. The opera currently has 19 full sets and costumes for 50 full productions in its inventory. Utah Opera also offers a Resident Artist Program, a nationally recognized young artist training program for professional singers and pianists who perform for more than 81,000 students each year free of charge through the organization’s education and outreach activities. The Utah Symphony has performed as part of the Opera’s productions since the company’s founding, and the two organizations merged in 2002.

Utah Opera’s Artistic Director, Christopher McBeth, joined the company in the fall of 2000 and took over primary artistic leadership in 2003. Under his leadership, Utah Opera productions have received acclaim for introducing audiences to the next generation of fine singing actors. Mr. McBeth strives to provide distinguished quality productions that showcase emerging and established artists, celebrate traditional works, and champion the American operatic tradition. For more information, visit www.utahopera.org.


The Utah Opera Season Sponsor is the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation.