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St. Vincent DePaul’s kindergarteners bloom in opera
Stage » Rose’s Garden helps plant seeds of creativity in youngsters.

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After working for three months, Williams was afraid the children would be tired when they took the stage at Rose Wagner on March 21, but they were ready for it.

"When they walked through the door [the next] morning, they were still excited," she said.

At a glance

Children’s opera showcase

Presented by Utah Opera to highlight original operas written and composed by elementary students.

St. Vincent DePaul Catholic School was one of three schools that presented this year at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center.

St. Vincent put on Rose’s Garden based on a book by Peter H. Reynolds under the guidance of teacher Mary Williams and Utah Opera composer Scott Larrabee.

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To her, the best part about putting the opera together was seeing the kids find their strengths and mature along the way.

"Everybody has different talents so each child blooms in some way," she said. "It was so exciting to see which part of the opera is going to be their strong point."

Although most people might think of an opera only as a performing art, Williams pointed out that the process of creating an opera involves many talents and skills.

"It meets so many areas of the curriculum," she said. "It addresses all the language art, all the theater, music, dancing."

In past productions, Williams has also integrated math, social studies and religion.

"It’s all-encompassing," she said. "It teaches them to work together cooperatively."

A huge aspect of the opera, she said, is to build confidence in the young students. She observed great changes in their maturity.

"I have children at the beginning of the year who would not stand up, they would cower on the floor behind everyone else," Williams said. "It was also thrilling to see when they’re having a huge audience, they’re standing and singing."

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Three elementary schools are invited to perform each year in the showcase at Rose Wagner. The invitation stems from the teachers’ participation in the Utah Symphony and Utah Opera’s "Music! Words! Opera!" workshop.

The free week-long course teaches teachers how to create operas with students. Williams said they placed the teachers in groups and had them actually perform so they could put themselves in their students’ shoes.

Williams has been doing musicals with her students for 11 years, but the workshop gave her a new appreciation for what she does.

"After taking that class, I thought this is such a beautiful gift to give to the children, just what an ‘opera-tunity’ to be able to actually teach and perform at the same time," she said.


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