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Utah Opera adopts West High School

As part of its parent organization’s commitment to supporting youth engagement in the arts, Utah Opera has “adopted” 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.

West High Theatre Company/Opera Club Attends La traviata Opera-tunities Night

All drama classes and stage crew class (pictured) take PS tours during class


“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.

West High Wizard of Oz program-makers consult with Utah Opera’s Marketing team

West set builders for Wizard of Oz consult with Jared Porter, Utah Opera Senior Technical Director

Wizard of Oz & Shakespeare competition costumers consult with Costume Director Verona Green



“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!”

Rehearsal performance of Dorothy addressing the Oz head (green topiary head from Utah Opera’s production of Abduction from the Seraglio) which the tech students wired flash whenever the Wizard’s voice was amplified.

Utah Opera’s Director of Education Paula Fowler, Chorusmaster Michaella Calzaretta, and Principal Coach and Pianist Carol Anderson attending the final performance of the musical which ran November 20-23, 2019.

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.

Utah Opera Chorusmaster Michaella Calzaretta coaches the girls’ chorus for West’s Wizard of Oz

Crew students get their own nights to observe backstage action during a performance of La traviata

Utah Opera Principal Coach Carol Anderson coaches the Tinman, from West’s Wizard of Oz.

“Paula and Michaella have 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!”

Utah Opera Chorusmaster Michaella Calzaretta rehearsing the West High A Cappella Choir. The Utah Opera Chorus and West High ACC will perform a side-by-side part of the school choir’s fundraising concert on March 17.

The West High drama teacher and two of her students are supers with spotlighted moments with Figaro during his opening aria during the room run of The Barber of Seville.

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.

In January, during Utah Opera’s production of Silent Night:

  • Drama students will have the opportunity to attend the Wednesday night performance.
  • West High’s stage crew will have the opportunity to participate in lightwalking, receive a partial tour of backstage, and spend time with some of their professional counterparts backstage.
  • Baritone Craig Irvin from the cast will make presentations in two West High choral classes.
  • Several students will have the chance to sit backstage on headset during performances and shadow the stage manager.

West High School’s stage crew participates in lightwalking on the stage of Janet Quinney Lawson Capitol Theatre for Utah Opera’s production of Silent Night.

Craig Irvin finishes up a performance of the aria “No piu andrai” from The Marriage of Figaro, with West High student Joffrey Ma’alona stepping into the role of Cherubino.

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.”

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