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Young Students Beat Bullying at the Opera

July 26, 2011

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    July 26, 2011
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    Opera Carolina News

Young Students Beat Bullying at the Opera

“Someone who doesn’t feel good about themselves.” This was a young boy’s response to the question – what is a bully?

The performers of Opera Express engaged the children at Shalom Park Freedom School in a dialogue about bullying and friendship after performing their similar themed version of The Billy Goats Gruff. Around 50 Freedom School students, kindergarten to 5th grade, enjoyed the operatic version of the fairytale about three billy goats and a bullying troll. The performance and the dialogue that followed, focused on seeing the humanity in bullies and using kindness to breed kindness.

The Shalom Park Freedom School is a collaborative effort to provide free, quality summer education programs for CMS students in underserved areas. The first Jewish-run Freedom School in the country, students take park in a six week literacy and enrichment program in an effort to combat summer break learning loss that research suggests has a greater impact on low-income students.

Opera Express, the educational touring company of Opera Carolina, made a special summer performance for the Freedom School students. During the school year, Opera Express visits 35 Charlotte Mecklenburg elementary schools bringing opera versions of popular children stories that prompt a broader message. These free programs allow Opera Carolina to introduce opera to young people who might otherwise not be exposed to it, with the hopes to demystify the art form that many consider inaccessible. For the 2011 – 2012 school year, Opera Express will perform Pinocchio and draw upon the consequences of lying.

Oasis, the Levine Jewish Community Center’s Senior Enrichment program, joined the Freedom School students for the performance. The show’s tongue in cheek moments weren’t lost on the adults in the room – if you act like Charlie Sheen, you will be alone. At one point, one of the Billy Goats who went to seek the help of an adult, returned alone stating he tried to find the Carolina Panthers, but they weren’t out of lockout yet.

This event brought together three separate groups with significant differences in every measurable way. In the end, the message of the performance was just as evident in the audience as it was in the show – it doesn’t matter where you come from, kindness creates communities.

By Amanda Pagliarini
Cross Roads Charlotte

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