University Opera Theatre awarded grant for children’s production

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University Opera Theatre awarded grant for children’s production

The Fresno State Opera Theatre was awarded $10,000 by the Central Valley Community Foundation to commission and produce a newly composed children’s opera.

The production is “Lucinda y las Flores de la Nochebuena” by composer Evan Mack and librettist Joshua McGuire. The grant is Fresno State’s first in the area of opera for young audiences.

A video about the production is available online .

Dr. Anthony P. Radford, artistic director for Fresno State Opera Theatre and an associate professor of music, asked Mack and McGuire to write an original opera for children of the Central Valley after they collaborated on “The Secret of Luca” in spring 2014.

“This is a special opportunity for Fresno State and the Central Valley to be involved in the creation of new opera,” Radford said.

The story they chose to adapt was a Mexican folk tale surrounding the use of poinsettias at Christmastime. They developed a coming of age story about a young girl named Lucinda who lives in central Mexico and works with her mother to make a blanket for the nativity scene on Christmas Eve. When her mother is too ill to complete the blanket, Lucinda uses only what she can find on the road on her way to church — a bouquet of weeds she picked. When she places the bouquet at the altar a miracle happens and the scene turns into pots of blooming poinsettias. Lucinda learns that everyone goes through tough times and when we give what we can, no matter how down we might feel or how humble the gift, every heart blooms.

The production seeks to reach communities that would benefit from seeing original live opera theatre and will be preceded by learning tools and craft activities for children in grades K-6 that will aid teachers as they prepare their classes for the performances. The opera is interactive with audience members (children, teachers and possibly parents) participating in the acting and singing. The opera combines Mexican folk melodies with traditional Christmas carols and is mostly sung in English, but also incorporates Spanish.

The Fresno State Opera Theatre will perform the 45-minute opera at schools around Fresno County, opening at the Selma Arts Center in November. The opera will be seen by over 2,000 children in the fall and will hold outdoor performances along with school site performances.

Fresno State graduate voice and opera student Alejandra Tejeda will sing the lead role of Lucinda and senior voice student Chrysanthe Pappas will appear as her mother. Graduate voice student Ed Olivarez will appear as optimist “Nobody” and junior voice student Christopher Rodriguez will appear as the pessimist “Everybody.” The opera will be directed by Radford.

Mack (Skidmore College) and McGuire (Vanderbilt University) visited Fresno State in late March to workshop and revise the opera with students, and they will be involved in the continual development of the opera.