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UNDERSTANDING THE ART OF OPERA


A Program Proposal & Grant Proposal
November 7, 2008
This opera course series is designed specifically for Washington National Operas Education
and Community Programs Department. It was conceived and developed out of an expressed desire
from adult patrons in the greater Washington D.C. area for an in-depth educational program on
opera. These patrons felt as if they didnt know much about the form but they were eager to learn.
The research that exists pertaining specifically to adult opera education is limited. Many adults have
grown up with little or no grounding in the arts, and the focus of much of the current research and
policy in arts education is on the K-12 level (Kerka 2004). But, as Kerka (2004) writes, Arts
learning experiences also benefit adults. Lifelong learning in the arts is a broad subject that may be
viewed from many perspectives.
Current opera programming for adults fall into two main categories: audience development
and professional development. In an audience development program (like a pre-performance
lecture), the ultimate goal is to create and perpetuate ticket buyers. Some latent educational
information may be transferred, but the primary goal is not to educate. The professional
development programs are mostly for young artistsprofessional singers or production people who
are finished with their graduate degrees and seek a bridge from school to the professional world in
the form of an apprenticeship.
Opera as an art form has an elitist stigma that has been perpetuated throughout American
culture, although its European roots are quite populist. There are three main reasons opera is
viewed as elitist. First, ticket prices are high. Because opera is expensive to produce, the tickets are
expensive to buy, which makes it prohibitive for those who cannot afford what becomes a luxury.
Second, although there are many American operas and composers creating new work today, opera
originates in Western Europe. Americans historically view most all things old world as having a

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snobby or elitist connotation, contrasting with the rebellious nature that characterizes the American
spirit. Finally, those operas that have become great works of art, surviving the test of time, come
from European cultures, meaning they are performed in their original language. As a superpower,
today America exudes a culture of confidence in what is inherently American most times at the
expense of other cultures and languages. Although our country is made up of a rainbow of diverse
cultural backgrounds, we as a nation find it difficult to embrace them at times, making art forms that
are not in English seemingly less accessible.
As opera educators today, our challenge is to break down the stereotypes associated with
opera and give learners the opportunity to experience the nuances of such a rich, multi-faceted art
form. Fortunately it seems as though the tide is turning, perhaps due to our increasingly globalized
community. Opera is uniquely positioned to offer an opportunity to learn about other cultures,
languages and traditions, thus offering a bridge between cultures. Recently opera companies have
aided in accessibility by adding supertitles (subtitles projected above the stage) to translate opera into
English while still preserving the art in its original form. In previous generations, opera was seen as
an art form that was either understood and loved or seen as mysterious and inaccessible and thus
ignored. Those who grew up in the families who loved opera passed it down through generations,
but those who did not were indifferent, which is now turning into curiosity for the new and
unfamiliar.
Arts across the board are still facing major funding cuts, and arts education is very
vulnerable, but it is also an asset to help build audiences (Chin & Qualls 1995). In an era where the
death of classical music is a worry for some, citing it as boring and irrelevant to contemporary
culture, which in turn makes funders go elsewhere, opera is uniquely positioned as a vibrant multiart with the ability to preserve and present the music in its original form while reinventing the
staging to capture contemporary audiences (Botstein 1996). However, there is still a disconnect

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between the creative work done by directors and opera companies to make historic works appealing
to modern audiences, and introducing (or reintroducing) people to an art form that, generations ago,
had negative elitist connotations.
Washington National Opera currently offers the Opera Insights lecture series for adults on the
Millennium Stage, a free performance space at the Kennedy Center. There is one lecture to
correspond with each opera presented in WNOs season. Regular opera patrons and subscribers
attend as well as Kennedy Center tourists and people who patronize the Millennium Stage
programming in general. Complaints about this program have included the fact that there are
assumptions made by the lecturer that the average audience member has basic knowledge of opera
as an art form and a bit about its history. Some are frustrated by this, although many enjoy the
chance to hear some insight into the operas presented on the stage, especially if they have tickets
and plan on attending.
WNO has partnered with Elderhostel International to host a Day of Discovery about opera.
This program is designed by Elderhostel and hosted by WNO to offer Elderhostel participants a
lecture, tour of the Kennedy Center, dinner and tickets to an opera performance. While this has
been a successful program, it is exclusively available through Elderhostel, marketed only to their
patrons, and attracts mostly those who are predisposed to the art form.
WNO has a Young Artist program, a professional education and apprenticeship program for
young opera singers beginning their professional careers. They often offer small concerts and
collaborate with the marketing and education departments to offer one-time special engagements.
While it gives opportunities for audiences to see and hear opera not on an opera house stage, it is an
exposure model to the art form that rarely produces any lasting effect on new audiences.
The marketing department at WNO also has pre-performance lectures that are exclusively
for ticket holders. They have a program for young patrons called Generation O as well that is

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geared toward 18-35 year olds. While these programs may have some educational component, their
goal is to sell tickets, and they are more social, promotional, and marketing related.
In a survey of other major opera companies across the country, most offer similarly
structured programs to WNOs that are geared toward adults. In addition, Opera America offers an
online course focusing on a particular opera in-depth. The online course is very extensive, offering a
wealth of information in a very intellectual manner. While the course is available to the general
public, one must again be predisposed to opera to even know to look for it.
In informal studies conducted by the education staff at Washington National Opera, they
found that the majority of adults speculated that they would enjoy opera if they knew more about it,
but felt intimidated by it (because the stereotypes are still prevalent) (B. Taylor, personal
communication, October 26, 2008). This new curiosity however, is generating a need for engaging,
non-threatening educational programming for adults.
The audience engagement models that currently exist make an assumption that the average
opera-goer knows the basics already. Those who have expressed curiosity to learn find these
lectures and demonstrations intimidating, further strengthening the stereotypes in their mind. This
is problematic, even for building new audiences, because it limits the growth for the love of the art
form to the predisposed those who learned about the basics elsewhere (like from parents,
grandparents, other mentors, or schools and universities).
Current introductory opera education is prevalent for children in many forms. Opera is
extremely compatible as an art form for integrated arts education because of its multi-artistic
dimensions. Programs for children in and out of schools are often justified within opera companies
as building opera audiences of the future. These programs have been going on for over 30 years
now (the approximate age of education departments within arts organizations), and there has been
no significant documented change in audience building and development as a result. Arts exposure

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programs have, through the test of time, proven that they largely failed (B.Taylor, personal
communication, October 26, 2008). And arts integration models, while they have succeeded, their
goal was never to create new opera audiences, rather to teach curriculum, communication skills, and
foster creativity through the arts (a noble goal in itself).
If the ultimate goal is to make opera more accessible to people and to dispel stereotypes in
order to grow new audiences, and there is a genuine curiosity among adults today to want to learn
more, then it is important for opera companies to offer education programming to adults in such a
way that they become fully engaged and immersed in the art form. Goldberg supports this by
asserting that hands-on participation moves people more than anything else, enlarging their
vision of possibility much more immediately than might be achieved through mere observation
(2006:54). Models for teaching adults in this manner exist and are very successful but currently are
only used to teach teachers in order for them to work with children.
Washington National Opera, along with many other opera companies in America, offers
professional development for teachers and volunteers in order for them to use opera in their
classroom and other educational environments. Two of the most reputed national curricula are
Creating Original Opera owned by The Metropolitan Opera and Music! Words! Opera! owned by Opera
America. The trainings are designed to take teachers through the process of creating an opera
company and an original opera, which they will then model and reproduce in their respective
classrooms. Although the focus of these professional development series and myriad others offered
by opera companies is to train adults to be effective teachers using opera as a tool, one result that is
often ignored is the effect that learning about opera has on the teacher themselves. Because these
curricula (and others) are designed to teach teachers the way they will teach students, adults are
engaged in a similar hands-on learning process experiencing and doing. In engaging adults this way,
they develop a completely different understanding of and experience with opera. In turn, they

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become some of the most enthusiastic advocates, not only for the curriculum, but also for the art
form.
One of the demonstrated needs of those asking for an introductory opera course is a
fascination with opera as an art form and a wish to know more about how all the pieces come
together behind the scenes. While other opera companies offer backstage tours and other glimpses
into the behind-the-scenes elements, none cover the different processes in a more comprehensive
manner.
Understanding the Art of Opera would consist of five 2-hour classes each with a dual focus:
on a particular era of western opera focusing on one or two composers and on a particular element
of production. Lessons would be part lecture, part hands-on discovery with the opportunity to try
out various production processes. For example, after learners understand about the form opera
buffa, they will then be led through the process of creating costumes, designing sketches for
themselves, and engaging in a dialogue with the Director of Costumes to learn the process of
building a costume from a sketch. Each class will integrate hands-on learning experiences and
interacting with professionals in the field. Participants will get to experience various parts of the
process of creating an opera as they learn about the background and history of opera from scholars.
This educational model of experiential learning is successful with students, and, outside of teacher
training, has not been used with adults to teach opera. While adults generally have a longer attention
span to enjoy a lecture, different learning styles are still present and most learn more through
interactive teaching and learning. Each lecture would be team taught by WNO staff and guest
experts from the field. The class format would be mutually designed and agreed upon with WNO
Education staff to ensure their participatory, interactive component and level of instruction
appropriate to the group.

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The classes would be offered at the WNO Studio on Saturday mornings from 10am to 12pm
so that working professionals and those with families and busy lives would be able to attend as well
as older and younger adults who may or may not have a typical 9-5 schedule. As a pilot program, it
would be marketed to those outside the immediate arts community but still a part of new and
existing community connections that WNO Education and Community Programs are continuing to
foster and strengthen. These would include community centers, senior centers, libraries, PTAs,
universities, and the Takoma Park community where the WNO Studio is located. In addition, WNO
would also invite all current patrons, including Generation O and the D.C. Arts and Humanities
Collaborative member organizations in hopes of disseminating the information to those who may be
interested in the arts in general, but not may have thought much about opera. If the first program
were to be successful, a larger marketing effort would be developed in order to publicize the
opportunity of this course to those not a part of WNOs immediate community connections.
The program will be administrated as a pilot by one of the three current education staff at
Washington National Opera. If the pilot program were to be a success, there would be further
discussion regarding the addition of a part-or full time staff member to administer all adult-related
programming for WNO Education and Community Programs and this would be reflected in
subsequent budget proposals.
Kerka surveys the many different reasons arts education for adults exist, including
developing the individual, maintaining or changing dominant culture, developing audiences,
cultivating practitioners, liberating and refining creativity, or developing technical skills. Through
arts integration models, the arts can be a mode of learning other essential skills, tools, and ideas
including critical thinking, literacy, or therapy (2004). It is important to have clear goals for any
endeavor into arts education practices. The goals for this project are as follows:

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Goal: To actively engage, in a participatory manner, adult learners in exploring opera in its history,
form, and production process.

Collect information about what the participants know, what their stereotypes are, and what
interests them about opera in order to structure the course to their specific needs.

Present five 2-hour classes, each with a theme focusing on a type of opera and an aspect of
the production process.

Hire master teachers to lead the course and provide oversight in the planning process to
ensure a dynamic, interactive teaching and learning experience.

Ensure that instructors invite learners to critically question the art form of opera in order to
understand how it relates to their own cultural context and to evaluate the cultural learning
that takes place within the history and art of opera.

Create an opportunity for participants to evaluate the program and the instructors in order
to perfect the course structure.

Goal: To provide a safe, nurturing, dynamic, welcoming environment for adults to learn about
opera.

Ensure that instructors have an expertise in teaching as well as the art form in order to create
an environment of exploration rather than a traditional information transmission teaching
model.

Express a clear expectation of instructors to find a balance between teaching to the


intellectual level of adult learners relate aspects of opera to other areas of life participants
are likely to be familiar with, thus grounding an understanding in what is known. Balance
with sensitivity to the stereotypes of opera the assumptions made about prior knowledge
that turn people off to their desire to learn more.

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Goal: To increase and diversify opera audiences: As a result of taking the course, participants will
demonstrate an increased comfort and understanding of the art of opera both in historical and
artistic aspects and will have a curiosity to be exposed to more opera.

Develop and administer pre- and post-evaluations to all participants of the course in order to
measure their change in attitude and comfort level regarding opera.

Track participants in a longitudinal study to discover if participants become ticket buyers and
whether they influence their peers to attend opera and/or sign up for subsequent courses.

Create community within cohort groups of learners in order for them to stay connected and
continue their opera learning on their own.

Note: It is important to begin evaluation methods with a new program in order not only to measure
its effectiveness but also to track long-term results of the program. The program administrator
would be responsible for implementing the initial evaluation and tracking methods in the pilot
program.
The immediate measure of effectiveness will be determined first by the attendance of the
pilot program (min. 10 people max. 40 people), and second, by the feedback from the participants
and the growth of the program following the pilot. The mid-term measure of effectiveness will be
the result of an assessment of alumni cohort groups and whether they have stayed connected,
continued to explore opera, become ticket buyers, and engaged their friends and communities in
learning about opera. The long-term measure of effectiveness will be a documented result in a
consistent rise of 10% new ticket buyers (including new subscribers) over the course of 5 years.
If successful, the program would be offered twice a year, once in the fall and once in the
spring. Operas used in the teaching of each class would not necessarily correspond with the operas
in WNOs season, but certainly could when applicable. Depending on the success of the program,

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discussions with the artistic staff may influence future opera seasons and their compatibility with this
program. There could also be exploration for growth, including partnering with other cultural and
community organizations around the greater Washington D.C. area.
An opera tells the story of a culture through orchestral and vocal music, visual art, and
movement. In this dynamic form, artists and audiences communicate according to their respective
cultures, for better or worse. By gaining an increased comfort, understanding, and curiosity for
opera, the adult-learning program will help to build and diversify audiences. It will also provide
learners with a personal sensitivity to history, culture, and multiple forms of communication.
Learners will have the opportunity to critically evaluate operas artistic interpretation of history and
culture. They will hone their capacity for the analysis, interpretation, and production of cultural
knowledge (Kerka 2004). By promoting the arts as a forum for creative expression, communication,
and cultural understanding, the greater community can enjoy opera, and it may no longer seem to be
an art form for the very few.

Understanding the Art of Opera


Budget NOTES
Program Revenue

2,250 Estimated 12 paid for series and aprox. 5 al a cartes per class

Program Administrator
Presenter Fees
Hospitality
Travel and Expenses
Room Reservation
Advertising
Supplies & Stationary

0
3,000
200
150
0
200
800
4,350

Salaried education staff responsibility (for pilot year at least)


Flexibility to have guest presenters as well as salaried WNO staff
For refreshments
Reimbursements for travel and parking for guests and presenters
Using WNO Studio space
For print advertising, flyers, and other
Copies, hand-outs, art supplies

Gross Expenses

2,100 Net Revenue

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Resources
Botstein, L. (1996). The paradoxes of doom. The Musical Quarterly. 80(4),563-568.
Chin D. and Qualls L. (1995). The arts and education. Performing Arts Journal. 17(2), 1-7.
Goldbard, A. (2006). A new creative community: The art of cultural development. Oakland: New Village
Press.
Kerka, S. (2004). Adult learning in and through the arts. ERIC Digest. Retrieved from
http://www.ericdigests.org/2003-2/adult.html on November 7, 2008.
Bibliography
Opera Company Websites:
Washington National Opera www.dc-opera.org
Opera America www.operaamerica.org
Seattle Opera www.seattleopera.org
Central City Opera www.centralcityopera.org
Palm Beach Opera www.pbopera.org
Sacramento Opera www.sacopera.org
Opera San Jose www.operasj.org
Philadelphia Opera www.operaphilly.com
Metropolitan Opera www.metopera.org
Boston Lyric Opera www.blo.org
San Francisco Opera www.sfopera.com
L.A. Opera www.losangelesopera.com
Houston Grand Opera www.houstongrandopera.org
Chicago Lyric www.lyricopera.org
Opera Theatre of Saint Louis www.opera-stl.org

COMMON PROPOSAL FORM


COVER SHEET
Request to:
Date of Application: 12/1/2008
Full Legal Organization Name: The Washinton Opera
Address: 2600 Virginia Avenue, NW, Suite 301
City: Washington
State:DC
Zip Code: 20037
Website: www.dc-opera.org
President/Exec. Dir.: Mark Weinstein
Title: Executive Director
Phone #: 202.295.2420

Email: mweinstein@dc-opera.org

Contact Person (if different): Maria Scaler


Title: Manager of Foundation Relations
Phone #: 202.295.2462
Email: mscaler@dc-opera.org
Organizational Information
501(c)(3)? Yes
No
If, Yes, FIN #: 00-1234567
Year established: 1956
If No, provide name of fiscal sponsor (enter organization name and address):
Total Organization Budget $32
Fiscal Yr: Month Jul Day 01
Total # of Board Members:
Total # of staff: 120
Volunteers #: 100
74
Organizational Mission Statement (50 words or less):
Washington National Opera is a globally renowned cultural institution who's mission
includes producing high quality productions, bringing new audiences to opera, and training
the next generation of opera stars. Additionally, WNO advances an educational vision
which bolsters the cultural education of the young people of the greater Washington area.
Brief Description of Organization (75 words or less):
Washington National Opera, founded in 1956, is currently under the stewardship of General
Director Plcido Domingo and has achieved the stature of a world class company and plays
to standing-room-only audiences at the Kennedy Center Opera House. The company
produces 7 fully staged operas a year and supports an active Center for Education and
Training.
Population Served (25 words or less, include age groups, race & ethnicity, income levels,
etc.):
WNO serves all ages, race, ethnicity, and income levels through diverse Education and
Outreach programming, the National Simulcast, presentations on the Millennium Stage,
and main stage productions.
Proposal Request:
Program/Project Name: Understanding the Art of Opera
Total Program Budget: $17,450
Requested Amount: $14,600
%: 84%
Type of Request: Start-Up
Grant Period: 9/1/2010 to
Multi-Year? Yes
6/1/2012
Geographic Area Served: Greater Washington D.C. Metropolitan Area
Priority funding areas of grant maker (indicate how your request fits within the grant makers
strategic interest[s]): Continuing Education and Audience Buliding
Most recent grants received from this funder:
Amount: $
Date:
Amount: $
Date:
I hereby verify that the information provided is accurate and honest to the best of my knowledge.

Authorizing signature (President of the Board or Executive Director)

Date

AGM COMMON PROPOSAL FORM


FULL PROPOSAL NARRATIVE
Organization Name: Washington National Opera
Project Name (if any): Understanding the Art of Opera

Organizational Information
1. Organizations History:
Washington National Opera, founded in 1956, is currently under the stewardship of General Director
Plcido Domingo and has achieved the stature of a world class company playing to standing-roomonly audiences at the Kennedy Center Opera House. The company recently received the designation
"The National Opera" by the Congress of the United States of America. It has been hailed for its
work with operas on the epic scale, as the British magazine Opera Now recently stated, "Washington
National Opera is carving out a new area of expertise . . . staging grand spectacles to exacting
standards with precision and power not often seen even at the world's top houses."
The Center for Education in training, founded in 2003, houses Education and Community Programs
whose programming began in 1992 with the Opera Look-In. Education and Community Programs
serve diverse local and national audiences through an extensive array of 15 different education and
outreach programs separated into four categories detailed below.
2. Organizational Goals and Objectives (short-term and/or long-term):
Washington National Opera:
Maintaining the number and quality of new productions and championing lesser known works
of significant musical worth rarely presented on today's opera stages.
A commitment to sustaining new American opera and presenting new works in crucial second
productions to expand the operatic repertory.
A commitment to the discovery and nurturing of important young talent and the international
collaboration system it has pioneered with leading foreign opera companies.
Education and Community Programs: We are committed to presenting high quality educational
programming available for the whole family extending throughout the local and national community
through both, in-depth year-long partnerships, introductory programming, and professional training
and development for youth and educators.
3. Programs and Services (briefly describe your organizations programs and services):
Washington National Opera:

7 full operas per season performed at the Kennedy Center Opera House including one
American opera.
Generation O: A program for 18-35 year olds to learn about and be able to attend opera
productions
National Simulcast: A free live broadcast of one of WNOs main stage productions that is free
to the public previously held on the National Mall and the Nationals Baseball Stadium.
The Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program: Under the leadership of Plcido Domingo, it
supports the artistic development of talented young opera singers, coach-accompanists,
directors and conductors.

The Plcido Domingo Internship/Apprentice Program: Provides on-the-job training and career
guidance for students and young professionals pursuing careers in arts administration or
opera production.
Education and Community Programs:
Our School Programs give students an opportunity to experience, study, and create
opera through in-depth year-long elementary school partnerships with the District of
Columbia Public Schools and schools who currently implement an opera creation program
in the Kids Create Opera Partnership. The acclaimed Opera Look-In, our 50-minute
narrated performance, is attended by over 4,000 students each year and serves as a
cornerstone for our school partnerships. Middle and high school students can engage in
more sophisticated opera study through our Student Dress Rehearsals.
Our Community Outreach extends throughout the District of Columbia and the
surrounding metro area through our Library Program. Families can discover the
excitement of opera at our Family Look-In in the Kennedy Center Opera House each
autumn. Opera novices and aficionados alike have the opportunity to be introduced to
each opera season through our Opera Insights series presented on the Kennedy Center
Millennium Stage.
Our national outreach is achieved through our Girl Scout Art of Opera Patch program, our
pre-professional vocal training program for high school singers, Opera Institute for Young
Singers, and our Professional Development for Educators through the Creating
Original Opera Teacher Training.
With several more programs including our Opera Discovery Camp and Opera Institute for
Young Singers, part of our Professional Training for Youth, and Arts Infusion: a fivepart professional development series for educators, there is something for nearly
everyone!

4. Organizational Structure (board, staff, volunteers):


80 Full-Time Staff
200 part time/seasonal staff
74 Board Members
Over 100 active volunteers
Between 10-20 interns/apprentices
Proposal Information
5. Description of Program/Project:
Understanding the Art of Opera: A dynamic series for opera aficionados in training is a five part
course for adults. It would consist of five 2-hour classes each with a dual focus: on a particular era
of western opera focusing on one or two composers and on a particular element of production
including:
Costume Construction and Opera Buffa
Reading a Set and Mozart
Lighting and Wagner
The Rehearsal Process and Verdi
Directing and Bolcom, Argento and other Contemporaries
Lessons would be part lecture, part hands-on discovery with the opportunity to try out various
production processes. For example, after learners understand about the form opera buffa, they will
then be led through the process of creating costumes, designing sketches for themselves, and
engaging in a dialogue with the Director of Costumes to learn the process of building a costume from
a sketch. Participants will get to experience various parts of the process of creating an opera as they

learn about the background and history of opera from scholars. Each class will integrate hands-on
learning experiences and interacting with professionals in the field and would be team taught by
WNO staff and guest experts. The specific structure for each class would be mutually designed and
agreed upon between presenters and WNO Education staff to ensure their participatory, interactive
component and level of instruction appropriate to the group.
Operas used in the teaching of each class would not necessarily correspond with the operas in
WNOs season (but certainly would when applicable) to enable the use of operas that are most
effective as examples for teaching specific concepts.
6. Description of Need (What is the issue you plan to address? What is your approach?
What research supports your idea? How does your strategy differ from others in the
field?):
This opera course series was conceived and developed out of an expressed desire from adult patrons
in the greater Washington D.C. area for an in-depth educational program on opera. These patrons
felt as if they didnt know much about the form but they were eager to learn. The research that
exists pertaining specifically to adult opera education is limited. Many adults have grown up with
little or no grounding in the arts, and the focus of much of the current research and policy in arts
education is on the K-12 level (Kerka 2004)1. But, as Kerka (2004) 1 writes, Arts learning
experiences also benefit adults. Lifelong learning in the arts is a broad subject that may be viewed
from many perspectives.
Current opera programming for adults fall into two main categories: audience development and
professional development. In an audience development program (like a pre-performance lecture),
the ultimate goal is to create and perpetuate ticket buyers. Some latent educational information
may be transferred, but the primary goal is not to educate. The professional development programs
are mostly for young artistsprofessional singers or production people who are finished with their
graduate degrees and seek a bridge from school to the professional world in the form of an
apprenticeship.
Opera as an art form has an elitist stigma that has been perpetuated throughout American culture,
although its European roots are quite populist. There are three main reasons opera is viewed as
elitist. First, ticket prices are high. Because opera is expensive to produce, the tickets are expensive
to buy, which makes it prohibitive for those who cannot afford what becomes a luxury. Second,
although there are many American operas and composers creating new work today, opera originates
in Western Europe. Americans historically view most all things old world as having a snobby or
elitist connotation, contrasting with the rebellious nature that characterizes the American spirit.
Finally, those operas that have become great works of art, surviving the test of time, come from
European cultures, meaning they are performed in their original language. As a superpower, today
America exudes a culture of confidence in what is inherently American most times at the expense
of other cultures and languages. Although our country is made up of a rainbow of diverse cultural
backgrounds, we as a nation find it difficult to embrace them at times, making art forms that are not
in English seemingly less accessible.
As opera educators today, our challenge is to break down the stereotypes associated with opera and
give learners the opportunity to experience the nuances of such a rich, multi-faceted art form.
Fortunately it seems as though the tide is turning, perhaps due to our increasingly globalized
community. Opera is uniquely positioned to offer an opportunity to learn about other cultures,
languages and traditions, thus offering a bridge between cultures. Recently opera companies have
aided in accessibility by adding supertitles (subtitles projected above the stage) to translate opera
into English while still preserving the art in its original form. In previous generations, opera was seen
as an art form that was either understood and loved or seen as mysterious and inaccessible and thus
ignored. Those who grew up in the families who loved opera passed it down through generations,
1

Kerka, S. (2004) Adult Learning in and through the Arts. ERIC Digest. http://www.ericdigests.org/20032/adult.html Retrieved 11/6/2008.

but those who did not were indifferent, which is now turning into curiosity for the new and
unfamiliar.
Arts across the board are still facing major funding cuts, and arts education is very vulnerable, but it
is also an asset to help build audiences (Chin & Qualls 1995)2. In an era where the death of
classical music is a worry for some, citing it as boring and irrelevant to contemporary culture, opera
is uniquely positioned as a vibrant multi-art with the ability to preserve and present the music in its
original form while reinventing the staging to capture contemporary audiences (Botstein 1996)3.
There is still a disconnect however, between the creative work done by directors and opera
companies to make historic works appealing to modern audiences, and introducing (or reintroducing)
people to an art form that, generations ago, had negative elitist connotations.
In informal studies conducted by the education staff at Washington National Opera, they found that
the majority of adults speculated that they would enjoy opera if they knew more about it, but felt
intimidated by it (because the stereotypes are still prevalent) (Taylor 2008)4. This new curiosity
however, is generating a need for engaging, non-threatening educational programming for adults.
The audience engagement models that currently exist make an assumption that the average operagoer knows the basics already. Those who have expressed curiosity to learn find these lectures and
demonstrations intimidating, further strengthening the stereotypes in their mind. This is
problematic, even for building new audiences, because it limits the growth for the love of the art
form to the predisposed those who learned about the basics elsewhere (like from parents,
grandparents, other mentors, or schools and universities).
If the ultimate goal is to make opera more accessible to people and to dispel stereotypes in order to
grow new audiences, and there is a genuine curiosity among adults today to want to learn more,
then it is important for opera companies to offer education programming to adults in such a way that
they become fully engaged and immersed in the art form. Goldberg supports this by asserting that
hands-on participation moves people more than anything else, enlarging their vision of possibility
much more immediately than might be achieved through mere observation (2006:54)5. Models for
teaching adults in this manner exist and are very successful but currently are only used to teach
teachers in order for them to work with children.
Teacher trainings for curricula such as Creating Original Opera owned by The Metropolitan Opera
Guild and Music! Words! Opera! owned by Opera America are designed to take teachers through the
process of creating an opera company and an original opera, which they will then model and
reproduce in their respective classrooms. Although the focus of these professional development
series and others is to train adults to be effective teachers using opera as a tool, a result that is
often ignored is the effect that learning about opera has on the teacher themselves. Teachers are
engaged in a similar hands-on learning process that they lead their students through. In engaging
teachers (adults) this way, they develop a completely different understanding of and experience with
opera, and become some of the most enthusiastic advocates, not only for the curriculum, but also
for the art form.
One of the demonstrated needs of those asking for an introductory opera course is a fascination with
opera as an art form and a wish to know more about how all the pieces come together behind the
scenes. While other opera companies offer backstage tours and other glimpses into the behind-thescenes elements, none cover the different processes in a more comprehensive manner.

Chin D. and Qualls L. (1995) The Arts and Education. Performing Arts Journal. v.17 n2/3 May-Sept.1995) p17.
3
Botstein, L. (1996) The Paradoxes of Doom. The Musical Quarterly. v.80 n4 Winter 1996 p563-568.
4
Taylor, B. (2008) Informal Interview. Associate Director, Education and Community Programs. Washington
National Opera. Washington, D.C.
5
Goldbard, A. (2006) A New Creative Community The Art of Cultural Development. Oakland: New Village Press.

An opera tells the story of a culture through orchestral and vocal music, visual art, and movement.
In this dynamic form, artists and audiences communicate according to their respective cultures, for
better or worse. By gaining an increased comfort, understanding, and curiosity for opera, the adultlearning program, Understanding the Art of Opera will help to build and diversify audiences. It will
also provide learners with a personal sensitivity to history, culture, and multiple forms of
communication. Learners will have the opportunity to critically evaluate operas artistic interpretation
of history and culture. They will hone their capacity for the analysis, interpretation, and production
of cultural knowledge (Kerka 2004)6. By promoting the arts as a forum for creative expression,
communication, and cultural understanding, the greater community can enjoy opera, and it may no
longer seem to be an art form for the very few.
7. Specific Activities (Include information about service delivery and/or timeline.):
Understanding the Art of Opera would consist of five 2-hour classes each with a dual focus: on a
particular era of western opera focusing on one or two composers and on a particular element of
production. Lessons would be part lecture, part hands-on discovery with the opportunity to try out
various production processes. Each lecture would be team taught by WNO staff and guest experts
from the field. The class format would be mutually designed and agreed upon with WNO Education
staff to ensure their participatory, interactive component and level of instruction appropriate to the
group. (See above for more detailed description.) The classes would be offered at the WNO Studio
on Saturday mornings from 10am to 12pm so that working professionals and those with families and
busy lives would be able to attend as well as older and younger adults who may or may not have a
typical 9-5 work schedule.
The program will be administrated as a pilot by one of the three current education staff at
Washington National Opera. If the pilot program were to be a success, there would be further
discussion regarding the addition of a part-or full time staff member to administer all adult-related
programming for WNO Education and Community Programs and this would be reflected in
subsequent budget proposals.
As a pilot program, it would be marketed to those outside the immediate arts community but still a
part of new and existing community connections that WNO Education and Community Programs are
continuing to foster and strengthen. These would include community centers, senior centers,
libraries, PTAs, universities, and the Takoma Park community where the WNO Studio is located. In
addition, WNO would invite all current patrons, including Generation O and the D.C. Arts and
Humanities Collaborative member organizations in hopes of disseminating the information to those
who may be interested in the arts in general, but not may have thought much about opera. If the
first program were to be successful, a larger marketing effort would be developed in order to
publicize the opportunity of this course to those not a part of WNOs immediate community
connections.
8. Objectives and Goals for this Request (How will this grant strengthen the organization,
address the issues, make improvements, or achieve success?):
Goal: To actively engage, in a participatory manner, adult learners in exploring opera in its history,
form, and production process.
Collect information about what the participants know, what their stereotypes are, and what
interests them about opera in order to structure the course to their specific needs.
Present five 2-hour classes, each with a theme focusing on a type of opera and an aspect of
the production process.
Hire master teachers to lead the course and provide oversight in the planning process to
ensure a dynamic, interactive teaching and learning experience.

Kerka, S. (2004) Adult Learning in and through the Arts. ERIC Digest. http://www.ericdigests.org/20032/adult.html Retrieved 11/6/2008.

Ensure that instructors invite learners to critically question the art form of opera in order to
understand how it relates to their own cultural context and to evaluate the cultural learning
that takes place within the history and art of opera.
Create an opportunity for participants to evaluate the program and the instructors in order to
perfect the course structure.

Goal: To provide a safe, nurturing, dynamic, welcoming environment for adults to learn about opera.
Ensure that instructors have an expertise in teaching as well as the art form in order to
create an environment of exploration rather than a traditional information transmission
teaching model.
Express a clear expectation of instructors to find a balance between teaching to the
intellectual level of adult learners relate aspects of opera to other areas of life participants
are likely to be familiar with, thus grounding an understanding in what is known. Balance
with sensitivity to the stereotypes of opera the assumptions made about prior knowledge that
turn people off to their desire to learn more.
Goal: To increase and diversify opera audiences: As a result of taking the course, participants will
demonstrate an increased comfort and understanding of the art of opera both in historical and
artistic aspects and will have a curiosity to be exposed to more opera.
Develop and administer pre- and post-evaluations to all participants of the course in order to
measure their change in attitude and comfort level regarding opera.
Track participants in a longitudinal study to discover if participants become ticket buyers and
whether they influence their peers to attend opera and/or sign up for subsequent courses.
Create community within cohort groups of learners in order for them to stay connected and
continue their opera learning on their own.
9. Evaluation (What are the anticipated outcomes and how will you know if you are
successful?):
It is important to begin evaluation methods with a new program in order not only to measure its
effectiveness but also to track long-term results of the program. The program administrator would
be responsible for implementing the initial evaluation and tracking methods in the pilot program.
Outside professional evaluation may be added after an initial evaluation of the pilot program.
The immediate measure of effectiveness will be determined first by the attendance of the pilot
program (min. 10 people max. 40 people), and second, by the feedback from the participants and
the growth of the program following the pilot. Feedback from participants will be collected in pre and
post written surveys to measure the change between before and after the program. Discussions
with the facilitators and instructors will also take place to evaluate their impressions of the program.
The mid-term measure of effectiveness will be the result of an assessment of alumni cohort groups
and whether they have stayed connected, continued to explore opera, become ticket buyers, and
engaged their friends and communities in learning about opera. At the end of the program WNO will
retain each participants contact information with their permission and conduct intermediate followup surveys. In addition, the participants as a group will become part of an online network so they
can continue to communicate about opera with each other. They will also each be placed on WNOs
mailing list for subscription and individual ticket sales, events and other promotions. Audience
Services and Marketing already has a system in place built in to their database that tracks
individuals ticket buying and attendance history.
The long-term measure of effectiveness will be a documented result in a consistent rise of 10% new
ticket buyers (including new subscribers) over the course of 5 years. This statistic will be measured
by the Marketing and Audience Services department from their compiled data and tracking
mechanisms.

Upon a successful initial evaluation of the pilot program, the course would be offered twice a year,
once in the fall and once in the spring. Operas used in the teaching of each class would not
necessarily correspond with the operas in WNOs season, but certainly could when applicable.
Discussions with the artistic staff may influence future opera seasons and their compatibility with
this program. Exploration for growth includes partnering with other cultural and community
organizations around the greater Washington D.C. area.

Understanding the Art of Opera


Total
Project
Budget

This
Request

% to
Total
Income

Income Sources
Government Grants
Foundation and Corporate Grants
United Way
Individual Contributions
Earned Income
Interest Income
In-Kind Support
Other Income
Total Income

12,500
-

12,500
2,250
600
-

0.0%
81.4%
0.0%
0.0%
14.7%
0.0%
3.9%
0.0%

12,500

15,350

100.0%

Salaries and Wages


Employee Benefits and Taxes
Total Personnel Costs

11,000
1,600

71.7%
10.4%

12,600

82.1%

Bank/Investment Fees
Depreciation Expense
Equipment Rental & Maintenance
Food Costs
Fundraising/Development Expenses
Insurance Expense
Marketing/Advertising
Postage and Delivery
Professional Development
Professional Fees
Rent and Occupancy
Supplies and Materials
Telephone Expense
Travel Expense
Other Expense 1
Other Expense 2
Miscellaneous Expenses
Total Non Personnel Costs

300
250
100
30
300
200
500

0.0%
0.0%
2.0%
1.6%
0.7%
0.2%
2.0%
1.3%
3.3%
0.0%
0.0%
5.9%
0.1%
1.0%
0.0%
0.0%
0.0%

2,750

17.9%

Total Expenses

15,350

100.0%

12,500

0.0%

Expenses

Excess of Revenue Over Expenses

900
20
150
-

BOARD OF TRUSTEES
Executive Committee
Mrs. Eugene B. Casey, Life Chairman
John J. Pohanka, Chairman
Kenneth R. Feinberg, President
Jacqueline Badger Mars, Chairman of the
Executive Committee
Harry L. Gutman, Vice President and Treasurer
The Hon. Selwa S. Roosevelt, Vice President
and Secretary
Camille S. Biros , Member at Large
Jane Lipton Cafritz, Member at Large
James V. Kimsey, Member at Large
Ms. Marcia V. Mayo, Member at Large
The Hon. Mary V. Mochary, Member at Large
Hilda Ochoa-Brillembourg , Member at Large
Barbara Augusta Teichert, Member at Large
Board Members
Mrs. James B. Adler
Mr. Jim Bell
Ellen S. Berelson
Mrs. Max N. Berry
Dr. Hans P. Black
Don Brown
Michael A. Chisek
Bonnie R. Cohen
Ryna G. Cohen
Robert H. Craft, Jr.
Mrs. Leo A. Daly III
Mrs. Charles J. DiBona
The Hon. Norman D. Dicks
Isabel Ernst
Robert Feinstein
James A. Feldman
Samuel J. Fisher
Allan M. Fox
Beth W. Glynn
Joseph Goffman
Mrs. Hermen Greenberg
Mae Haney Grennan
Timothy Howard

Michael Kappaz
H. Alexandra Kauka
Anne R. Kline
Ms. Patricia Kluge
Peter L. Kreeger
Anthony M. Lanier
Mrs. Patrick J. Leahy
The Hon. Marc E. Leland
Shelley Lipton
Elizabeth Vickrey Lodal
Guillermo L. Martnez
Artemis P. McDonald
Bonnie McElveen-Hunter
David L. Mercer
Evelyn Stefansson Nef
Franco Nuschese
Susan Pillsbury
Mrs. Frederick Prince
The Hon. Jane Sloat Ritchie
Eugene H. Rotberg
Mr. Michael Salzberg
Mrs. James F. Sams
Guillermo Schultz
Mrs. Albert H. Small
Michael R. Sonnenreich
Mrs. Cita Stelzer
Mrs. Ted Stevens
Mr. Richard L. Storch
Mrs. Alexander J. Tachmindji
Susan E. Trees
Antoine W. van Agtmael
The Hon. Anthony A. Williams
Curtin Winsor III
Mrs. Dorothy M. Woodcock
Nancy M. Zirkin
Honorary Trustees
Ina Ginsburg
Gerson Nordlinger, Jr.
Elaine Decker Rosensweig

Timeline for Administrator in Implementation of Understanding the Art of Opera


5 months before beginning of the course:
Reserve room in WNO studio w/ Scheduling Office
Meet with Marketing office to develop PR/Marketing plan
Design flyer and distribute to all education contacts
Update website with material
3 months before beginning of the course:
Line up/ hire and contract instructor/instructors
WNO staff managing program meet with instructors to discuss:
o Course outline and content
o Instructor expectations
o Co-design details of each session
Purchase any necessary supplies that are identified during the instructor meeting
Design and plan evaluation procedures. Create any necessary mechanisms to do so:
o Surveys
o Online Groups
o List Serves
o Contact Lists
Begin collecting registrations
1 month before:
Assemble any necessary hand-outs, workbooks, binders that are identified by
instructors during the meeting
Continue collecting registrations
2 weeks before:
Finalize registration list and send confirmation reminders of date, time, location (with
directions), and supplies needed. (Include a pre-class survey in these materials)
Check in with instructors and guest speakers to confirm supplies, any audio visual
media needed, and room set up.
Confirm room schedule with Scheduling office
1 week before:
Notify Office Manager of need for Elevator to be open Saturday hours.
One Day before:
Set up room and make sure audio visual equipment is ready and working.
Morning Of:
Purchase coffee and pastries and set up in room
Set up welcome registration
Check in with instructors for any last minute changes
Welcome participants and field any questions
After the first session:
Check in and follow up with participants and instructors.
Set up subsequent sessions
End of last session:
Administer post-survey
Make sure everyones contact information is collected and present.
Set up and show people how to use group to stay connected online
Explain the tracking procedure.
Week after last session:
Set up meeting with instructors and staff to debrief program.
Discuss and plan second session.

Understanding the Art of Opera


Sample Class
Rationale: The goal of the program is to create a non-threatening environment in which to
engage adults in an introduction to opera that dispels stereotypes, makes them feel comfortable
about the art form, and ignites their curiosity to learn more.
Format: Part history/music education about different kinds of opera, part craft of opera
focusing different artistic disciplines that come together to make it happen. Very hands-on!!
Begin with Mini-Lecture on Englebert Humperdinks opera Hansel and Gretel
Todays Sample:
Hansel and Gretel by Englebert Humperdink & The role of Director
Chose b/c familiar with characters and with story line even if youre not familiar
with the opera.
Set up the scene.
Introduce Role of Director:
Has the vision for the production and is the captain of the ship.
With a new production, works with designers to develop a cohesive feel to sets,
costumes, lighting, special effects etc.
Examples: Contemporary Goth, Candyland whimsical, Tim Burton-eque, classic German.
Sets the production by giving blocking, intention etc.
Decides how to best tell his/her version of the story
Today: You are going to be the directors. It is up to you to decide how and where youd like
the characters to move and act to best tell your version of the story. Usually there are one or
maybe two directors, but since you are many, you have the added challenge of working together
as a class to create a single vision. Its up to you how you approach this. You have the libretto,
or script in front of you to help you.
Note: This selection is a dance, so sometimes in opera there is also a choreographer that works
with the director and is more knowledgeable in the craft of movement/dance.
Materials: Libretto copies for each student.
Teaching Artist: Performs an excerpt from Brother Come and Dance with Me with an
assistant completely non-moving and deadpan. Teaching Artist then facilitates students to make
choices as directors to stage the teaching artist and assistant into a scene. As actors and singers
they are molded without judgment into whatever the directors say so that they can get
immediate feedback as to whether their choice worked and translates.
Reflection:
What did you experience?
What did you learn about being a director that you didnt know before?
As an audience member, knowing that each action on stage is a choice made by the
director, how will that inform your understanding of opera?

Understanding the Art of Opera


A dynamic series for opera aficionados in training
5-part series for adults
Come learn about opera as a dynamic multi-art form with a rich
history. Engage in hands-on experiences of the opera production
process. Opera professionals and experts in the field will guide
you through this discovery process.

Costume Construction and Opera Buffa


Reading a Set and Mozart
Lighting and Wagner
The Rehearsal Process and Verdi
Directing and Bolcom, Argento and other Contemporaries

Saturday mornings 10am-12pm


Dates TBA
Washington National Opera Studio
6925 Willow Street, NW 3rd Floor
Washington, D.C. 20012
$125 for all or $30 a la carte
(discount for college students: $15 or $75 for all)
Coffee and Pastries provided

Contact Washington National Opera Education and Community Programs to register


or for more information: education@dc-opera.org or 202.448.3465