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Third-graders perform with professional opera singers

Opera for the Young in cooperation with third-graders in the New Richmond School District performed "The Little Mermaid" on Oct. 27 in the Starr Elementary School gymnasium. Photo courtesy of the New Richmond School District

Opera for the Young, a touring company that brings live, professional opera to elementary school audiences, recently performed an adaptation of Antonín Dvořák's famous opera, "Rusalka," or better known as "The Little Mermaid."

The opera company performed for third-graders in the school district Oct. 27 in the Starr Elementary School gymnasium. The production was fully staged, sung in English and adapted especially for children. Students spent six weeks preparing music and learning about opera in their music classes.

Every third-grader in the school district learned the chorus parts and even sang along during the opera. A chorus of 16 third-grade students from Hillside, Paperjack and Starr elementary schools appeared onstage as the "Creatures of the Coral Reef" and performed alongside professional artists. The opera chorus was made up of students chosen through audition by their music teachers: Mary Anderson (Hillside), Jodi Mealey (Paperjack) and Heather Zappetta (Starr). These students met during lunch, recess, and/or before school to practice their singing and group speaking parts.

Choristers were: Gavin Allram, Grace Brinkman, Nora Carlson, Isaiah Hamdorf, Madison Kamish, Skylar Fagnan Maiterth, Kalleigh Robinson, Aleah Rodriguez, Shannon Roessler, Jackson Schroeder, Caeley Spielman, Joshua Stangl, Ava Strand, Tyler Vanasse, Rosemary Voje and Ben Wilhelm. Two students — Gavin Allram and Caeley Spielman — also had speaking parts as the Spiny Urchins. Anika Campbell-Huston, a third-grader from Starr, was honored at the performance for her award-winning program design. Her drawing appeared on the opera program cover which was distributed to over 575 audience members.

The day of the performance, Opera for the Young artists spent just 40 minutes teaching the students choreography and stage direction prior the show. The student actors wore costumes provided by OFTY that made them look like Creatures of the Coral Reef. The students delivered a stunning performance, and OFTY artists mentioned how well New Richmond students listened, learned and performed.

OFTY was brought to New Richmond at no cost to the students or school district. All expenses were covered using grant funds awarded by the Twin Cities Opera Guild, Inc. — an independent nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization devoted to opera education for children. If you would like to learn more, or donate to the organization, visit