OFtY FYI: Video Release Announcement!

Click to watch!

Click the PLAY button to watch the set of three introductory videos outlining the mission and programs of Opera for the Young!

Opera for the Young is thrilled to announce the release of three videos outlining the mission, in-school experience, and artistic excellence of our annual school tours. The three short introductory videos are the result of a year-long enterprise: a collaboration between Madison filmmaker, Miles Hofschulz and OFTY.  The company was ready for a professionally produced video that would reflect the quality of our work – an ambitious undertaking given our widely varied and acoustically challenging locales. Enthusiasm for the project came from Hofschulz’ love for the arts: “I’ve always been a fan of classical music and the Opera for the Young cast features incredible talent, both the singers and pianist, so it’s a lot of fun to listen to and watch these artists perform. But it’s also a blast to see these kids feel the music, especially when their faces light up with wonder on the soprano’s high notes. Then they get a chance to sing along and may even get a speaking line in front of the whole school, it’s just such a unique experience.”

The clips from OFTY’s Beauty and the Beast were filmed at Kennedy Elementary in Janesville, WI with the help of music teacher Shelly Van Tassell and art teacher Karen Smerlinski. Together with Kennedy Principal Allison Degraaf, these three educators highlighted their experience and shared their view that OFTY’s high quality, accessible, fun brand of opera education is vital for their students. OFTY’s The Magic Flute performance was recorded at Glacier Edge Elementary in Verona, WI with music teacher Melissa Bremmer. What made this performance particulary exciting was the extent of student involvement – Bremmer taught the music to a large offstage chorus, allowing hundreds of students to participate on the day of the show. OFTY’s third featured production, The Barber of Seville, was filmed by the Madison Media Institute and performed at Marquette Elementary. Click here or on the above picture to watch the videos now!

OFtY FYI: Student art to make you smile!

Click to see the student art slideshow!

Click to see the student art slideshow!

Every season, the schools that host Opera for the Young’s annual production are invited to participate in the “Be a Designer!” contest. Teachers are encouraged to help their students create multi-media visual art projects to decorate their classrooms, the school hallways, and the performance space. In addition, many children enthusiastically embrace the opportunity to put on face makeup and costume pieces to wear the day of the show. Our twofold goal is to reach those creative children who may not be as interested in the performance aspect of opera and to drum up excitement for the opera throughout the entire school. Click on the link above to see examples of artwork from the first half of this season’s tour of The Magic Flute!


Ashley Koffarnus, the music teacher at Evans Elementary in Fond du Lac, makes it a community building experience for the whole school: “I have each grade do one art project in music class.  Then I take all of the art projects to create a huge masterpiece within the performance area (our music room).  The students learn that they are helping to create the set for the performance area.  We talk about setting, set, background, scenery building, etc. They really enjoy knowing that they have contributed to the show, even if they are not in the on or off stage chorus.  It brings a huge sense of community to the show!”

Meet Katie, tour mastermind!

Katie Butitta and BYOO Campers

Katie Butitta, OFtY’s Operations Manager rehearses with student campers during OFtY’s Summer Camp, “Build Your Own Opera” (2014)

Opera for the Young’s 2015/16 tour of The Magic Flute goes back on the road this Monday- what better time to feature the woman behind the tour? This season, OFtY will perform The Magic Flute in over 170 schools at over 200 performances! From booking hotels to scheduling performances to supporting teachers, OFtY’s Operations Manager Katie Butitta makes sure school music teachers, students, and our cast are prepared and excited for every show. 

Katie isn’t always behind the scenes- she first came to Opera for the Young as a singer – The Pirates of Penzance (2011) and Cinderella(2013). A graduate of UW-Green Bay, Katie holds a major in voice and a minor in arts management as well as a masters degree in vocal performance from UW-Madison. You can see her onstage this season with the Madison Choral Project and the Madison Opera Chorus. OFtY is known for our high quality, professional school programs. As both a wonderful performer and excellent tour manager, Katie delivers! Check out this article featuring Katie as UWGB celebrates its 50th anniversary!

Creative Kids!

Randall Elementary students perform

Click to watch the video!

Every season Opera for the Young receives thousands of pictures and thank you letters, but a video showing children inspired by OFtY to create art is a rare treat! OFtY staff were thrilled to receive this clip from Randall Elementary in Madison, WI. Click the picture above to watch the students perform original text to Mozart’s music.

Following OFtY’s performance of The Magic Flute, students discussed the importance of articulation and enunciation with their music teacher, Beth Kiser. A third grader from the audience asked: “So the queen of the dark planet was the queen of the moon and it’s made of cheese–so they would all live in cheese.  Right?” The students laughed and came up with the first few lines of the parody as a class. Several students took it with them to recess and came back with the completed parody. Their original words invite you to come to Wisconsin and try our cheese!

Meet the Queen!

Rehearsal week is here, and 15 artists from around the country have come to Madison and are rehearsing OFtY’s The Magic Flute- the 2015/16 tour begins THIS FRIDAY! With lighthearted stage direction from Diane Garton Edie and music direction from renowned conductor Clinton Smith, this show is going to be a cosmic event!

Click to watch the video!

Click to watch the video!

On the eve of the first rehearsal, we interviewed one of our three Queens of the Night, OFtY soprano Gillian Hollis (Beauty, 2014/15 Season). Gillian shared lots of fun stories and tour moments, but most importantly, she let us know how important OFtY is to everyone involved, including the artists! Listen to the interview to learn more about Gillian, Opera for the Young, and why she’s back for a second tour. The students we reach aren’t the only ones excited to see how Opera for the Young adaptations are created!

Beauty and the Beast at Ravinia Saturday!

This Saturday marks an important milestone for Opera for the Young- our newest adaptation, Beauty and the Beast, will enjoy its first performance at North America’s oldest music festival, the Ravinia Festival in Chicago. Our friends at Madison’s The Cap Times featured Opera for the Young’s Ravinia performance in today’s printed edition of the paper. Click here to read the article featuring an interview with this weekend’s “Beauty” and OFtY’s Development Coordinator, Saira Frank!

Ravinia’s summer lineup ranges from Yo-Yo Ma to John Legend, and the world-renowned Chicago Symphony Orchestra calls Ravinia their summer home. OFtY’s performance is part of the Kids Concert Series and students from Ravinia’s “Reach*Teach*Play” program will join our 4 singers and pianist to perform in the *SOLD OUT* 850-seat historic recital hall, The Martin Theater. Pictures like the collage below assure the impression our shows are making on the children we reach, and this weekend will expand that audience significantly!


Thank you for helping Opera for the Young become a shining example for children’s opera outreach across the country, we look forward to making our mark at Ravinia, and we’ll keep the updates coming!

Our shows on the road!

Did you know that Opera for the Young’s unique adaptations of kid-friendly operas are rented by opera companies throughout the US and Canada? From Ohio to Oklahoma, from Ottawa to Newfoundland, OFtY is an international hit! Our adapters’ carefully crafted shows offer opera companies a unique opportunity to connect with and involve their local communities in real, live opera performances. “The students and teachers were thrilled, have already asked us back for next year, and plan to spread the word among their teacher networks…I don’t need to tell you that your formula is successful, but I share this to let you know that we are taking great care to serve the material and do it justice.” says Susan Larson from the New England Gilbert and Sullivan Society.Cincinnati

We’re excited to see where our newest commission, Beauty and the Beast, will go! OFtY’s last addition to the catalogue in 2014, Cinderella, is currently in preparation by Opera Columbus for performances this fall, not to mention The Magic Flute, Hansel & Gretel, and Rusalka all “out on the road” in the capable hands of The Children’s Opera, Lyric Opera of the North, and Memorial University of Newfoundland. Six different companies performed OFtY’s adapations over 100 times this past year alone! Click here for more information about OFtY’s catologue of 9 original children’s operas.

Meet the cast of The Magic Flute!

You may have heard that Opera for the Young’s upcoming production of “The Magic Flute” (adapted by Jeffrey Sykes & Diane Garton Edie) is set in outer space, but did you know our cast of singers is OUT OF THIS WORLD? We have 12 singers and 3 pianists joining us for the 2015-2016 season, and for 9 of those artists, “Flute” will be their first OFtY tour! Singers Gillian Hollis,Rebecca Sorenson, Pedro Willis-Barbosa and Anthony Heinemann return for a second tour, and Steve Radtke (9 seasons) and Vince Fuh (10+) return once more as cast pianists.

Our cast has earned degrees from schools all over the country. They hold bachelors’, masters’, performing certificates, and doctorates’ from coast to coast, including (but not limited to) UW Madison, Indiana University, Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, Northwestern, DePaul, and even the Franz Liszt Academy! With experience performing all over the world, Opera for the Young’s newest cast will once again bring the best of professional opera to elementary students all over the Midwest. Check out the announcement below for artist details!Flute Cast 2015-2016

Good news comes in twos!

Opera for the Young’s touring cast will complete the in-school tour of Beauty and the Beast this Monday at Lodi Elementary. It’s sad to see this colorful production nearing its end, but exciting news from the NEA and the Ravinia Festival will help us get through it!

Through its grant-making to thousands of nonprofits each year, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) promotes opportunities for people in communities across America to experience the arts and exercise their creativity. In the second major grant announcement of fiscal year 2015, the NEA will make a $20,000 award to Opera for the Young for our 2015-2016 tour of OFtY’s The Magic Flute. The NEA will make 1,023 awards totaling $74.3 million nationwide in this funding round. NEA Chairman Jane Chu said, “The NEA is committed to advancing learning, fueling creativity, and celebrating the arts in cities and towns across the United States. Funding these new projects like the one from Opera for the Young represents an investment in both local communities and our nation’s creative vitality.”

But before we turn our focus to Flute, our production of Beauty and the Beast has been invited to perform for the Ravinia Festival’s Kids Concert Series! Join us at North American’s oldest music festival this summer on August 29th to celebrate this momentous accomplishment.

Community Conversations on The Avenue!

Welcome to the first edition of OFtY FYI! This informational newsletter by Opera for the Young, the Midwest’s premiere children’s opera outreach company, will share news and the latest tour updates from the cast on the road. Keep an eye out for our favorite moments in photo, video, and web links!
First up! Opera for the Young is the featured guest on Community Conversations, a weekly community affairs show airing Saturdays at 7 AM and again on Wednesdays at 7 PM on Northeastern Wisconsin’s 91.1 The Avenue. Tune in this Saturday, April 18th (or Wednesday, April 22) if you’re local, or listen online here. Host Tammy Williams sits down with OFtY’s touring artist, Adam Shelton and Development Coordinator, Saira Frank following Wilson Elementary’s performance of Beauty and the Beast in Neenah, WI. They discuss OFtY’s impact through our 23-show Fox Valley tour supported by the Community Foundation. Archived programs and resources are available anytime on this page.Tammy Williams with J. Adam Shelton and Saira Frank