Improving Self Confidence thru Opera with Opera Carolina

by Amelia Old
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Opera Carolina’s Educational Touring Company to Perform The Billy Goats Gruff for Freedom School Scholars and Senior Citizens


Charlotte, N.C., (July 18, 2011) – Opera Express, the educational touring company of Opera Carolina will entertain an audience that spans generations in a special performance of The Billy Goats Gruff for 50 young scholars (Kindergarten to fifth grade) from the Shalom Park Freedom School and some 40 members (age 50 and up) from the Levine Jewish Community Center’s seniors enrichment program, Oasis. Youth and older adults will gather to watch the engaging operatic version of the treasured children’s tale at 1:30 p.m. on Monday, July 25 in Gorelick Hall at Shalom Park (5007 Providence Road).

Following the performance, Opera Express cast members and Shalom Park Freedom School leaders will engage the audience in a dialogue about bullying, friendship and relationships by utilizing as a prompt, the storyline about The Billy Goats Gruff and their interaction with a fearsome, bullying troll.

Opera performance – 1:30 to 2:30 p.m.

Post-performance dialogue – 2:30 to 3 p.m.

Shalom Park Freedom School – the first Jewish-run Freedom School in the country – is a six-week summer literacy and enrichment program that aims to strengthen learning skills and augment cultural education opportunities for at-risk children. Fifty students from Huntingtowne Farms and Sterling Elementary schools,which are supported throughout the year by partnerships with Temple Beth El and Temple Israel, are attending the Shalom Park Freedom School.

Opera Carolina leadership views the Shalom Park Freedom School performance as an opportunity to enrich the students’ cultural curriculum, as well as impact their learning skills.“Numerous studies indicate that early exposure to the arts significantly enhances a child’s creativity, which leads to critical thinking and independent learning,” said James Meena, general director and principal conductor of Opera Carolina. “Arts education is at the heart of Opera Carolina’s mission and we are thrilled to be able to share an up-close, interactive opera production with the Shalom Park Freedom School scholars. “We’re also enthused about the audience diversity. It will be great to see the different reactions; from children who may be watching opera stars perform the famous tale for the first time to adults who are swept up by nostalgic childhood memories.”

Shalom Park Freedom School’s afternoon enrichment coordinator Amy Lefkof notes that bringing together the scholars and seniors was fortuitous – the result of trying to find the best performance space and available date. “When Jodie Iagnocco, assistant director of the Senior Adult Department at the Jewish Community Center, heard we needed Gorelick Hall, she jumped at the chance to invite the young scholars to share the wonderful performing space the senior citizens had previously reserved. All the groups and organizations at Shalom Park have been so eager to interact and support the scholars, and Oasis members are thrilled they have a chance to meet them while also enjoying the opera.”


About Opera Express
Opera Express, a year-round, state-wide initiative that brings opera stars and performances to elementary and middle schools, held 72 performances in 14 counties this year. It is made possible by special funding from the Duke Energy Foundation’s The Power of Music.

About Opera Carolina
Founded in 1948 as the Charlotte Opera Association by a small group of volunteers, today Opera Carolina is the largest professional opera company in the Carolinas with an operating budget of $2.5 million for the fiscal year 2012. The mission of Opera Carolina is to inspire the region’s diverse community through the presentation of excellent Opera, Operetta, and Education & Outreach programs that elevate the quality of life in the Carolinas. Opera Carolina is a community resource with a commitment to artistic excellence and community Opera Carolina is supported by individuals and corporations throughout the region. Opera Carolina is also supported, in part, with operating support from the Arts & Science Council. Additional support is provided by the North Carolina Arts Council, a division of the Department of Cultural Resources, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Opera Carolina is a member of OPERA America.

About Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools
The CDF Freedom Schools program provides summer and after-school enrichment that helps children fall in love with reading, increases their self-esteem, and generates more positive attitudes toward learning. Children are taught using a model curriculum that supports children and families around five essential components: high quality academic enrichment; parent and family involvement; civic engagement and social action; intergenerational leadership development; and nutrition, health and mental health.

About Shalom Park Freedom School
The mission of the Shalom Park Freedom School is to build Jewish identity, pride and community by engaging all segments of the Charlotte Jewish Community in a collaborative effort to provide a free, high-quality, summer educational program for children of poverty in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. Shalom Park Freedom School is a collaborative effort of Temple Beth El, Temple Israel, the Jewish Federation of Greater Charlotte, the Levine JCC, the Charlotte Jewish Day School, the Levine-Sklut Judaic Library and Resource Center, Jewish Family Services and the Foundation of Shalom Park. This is the first Freedom School in the country that is sponsored by a Jewish community. The mission of Oasis, the Levine Jewish Community Center’s Senior Enrichment Program, is to enrich and prolong the quality of life for all seniors regardless of religious affiliation. Oasis welcomes all adults age 50 and above from the greater Charlotte area. Seniors gather to socialize, pursue intellectual stimulation, and participate in physical and health promotional programs and to eat nutritious meals together. It is the only senior enrichment
program in the area that provides transportation.

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