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San Francisco Opera Guild staging McParland program
MAN TOP SCHOOLS OperaMcParland 2
Young elementary students enjoy a classroom opera project as part of the San Francisco Opera Guilds education program. - photo by Photos by Susan Malott courtesy San Francisco Opera Guild

The San Francisco Opera Guild is coming to George McParland Annex School.

The guild’s in-class program called Sing a Story 2015 will be entertaining and educating the first graders attending the Annex branch of the elementary school on April 13. The purpose of this first-ever SF Opera visit is to expose the students to the opera as an art form.

“The program is very interactive. The artist will show up with a whole bag of props and costumes,” explained Opera Guild education administrator Kelly Dewees.

The artist who will be appearing at the McParland Annex is Jason Sarten, a baritone who has sung in Opera Chorus and has had lead roles in small opera companies in the Bay Area. The Opera Guild has several artists working in its in-class program.

“We’re working in about 75 schools this spring, mostly in the Bay Area because our artists are based in the Bay Area,” Dewees said.

A school located past the Altamont into the valley such as McParland is a rare occurrence, and was made possible by the fact artist Jason lives not too far from Manteca, she explained.

To take part in this educational program, schools are charged a minimum fee of $135 per classroom. However, “we do offer scholarships,” said Dewees. For the McParland program, the school is paying for one class, with one class being underwritten by a friend of McParland School, Florence McConnell, who not only happens to be a neighbor of the Annex School but is also one of the Opera Guild’s volunteer docents.

The guild also has another in-class program going on in the fall for fourth to eighth graders which also involve professional artists who work for the guild. The spring program runs from January to April.

Baritone Sarten will present the Opera Guild program to McParland Annex’s first graders only. He will be telling the “Magic Flute” story and will be teaching the students “some singing and some movement.

“Every single child will have an opportunity to play a part in the (classroom) opera. There will be lots of costumes. We make these little costumes especially for them. They will have a chance to wear them. They get to be the characters. They’ll put on a classroom show but they don’t have any lines to remember. The artist will be telling the story. It’s really fun,” Dewees said, explaining how the 45-minute presentations will be performed in the classroom.

The San Francisco Opera and the San Francisco Opera Guild both provide education programs for students, educators, and adults, according to the guild’s website. Founded by Gaetano Merola and incorporated in 1923, the opera company’s first performance, La Boheme, took place in September of that year in the San Francisco Civic Auditorium conducted by Merola.