We create original children’s operas based on myths and folktales from different cultures around the world and perform them in schools as an integrated part of the curriculum. Through Opera-Tunity, students are exposed to different cultures as a learning experience and as a means to understanding diversity. The myths chosen for the operas come from cultures whose stories are often not read in the school’s curriculum. Our first opera is based on a Native American myth from the Algonquin tribe; a second on a Nigerian myth from Africa. In the works is a third, possibly from Latin America.
Myths are the basis of our stories and are meant to bring attention to ideas outside of the school’s standard curriculum while at the same time creating a dialogue about the differences and similarities between these stories and the ones that are taught in the schools. The dialog of each opera is written by us based on the chosen myth and on the message that the story conveys to the students
We compose each opera for unique combinations of instruments that incorporate different colors, rhythms, and harmonies from non-Western musical traditions. This gives students the chance explore sounds and styles from around the world. The Adventures of Great Rabbit uses a Japanese floor harp and a flute; The Feast in the Sky combines a saxophone and African Djembe drum
Our goal is to get the students involved in as many aspects of the opera as possible to extend the learning experience beyond the performance. This includes having the students build props and set pieces as well as performing a song the during the opera. In addition, a talk back follows the performance where students may ask the performers and musicians questions about the opera or the process involved in creating it.
How Does this Work?
In addition to performing the opera, we provide teachers with the tools they need to expand the learning experience for their students. Beyond just watching the performance, we want to engage the students in learning about the myth and it's cutltural orgins and have them participate by learning some music to be sung in performance and designing and making props to be used by the performers.
The school district receives a comprehensive guide that outlines all of the concepts presented in the opera. This guide adheres to common core curriculum standards and presents the information in an easy to use manner that can supplement the school’s curriculum. The guide presents age appropriate information on opera and classical music, the history of the culture explored in the myth, geographic information about the region of the myth’s origin, and an interactive guide to storytelling that explores the differences and similarities between opera and literature.
While Opera-Tunity’s primary goal is to expose young students to opera and classical music, we acknowledge the scientifically proven effects and applications that art and music have on learning other subjects. As a result, we believe a fully integrated approach is the most effective way to provide the most benefits for the students who participate. "The students’ enthusiasm after the performance is reflected in their comments about the opera and how much they would like to go to one again, with their families,” says Judith Bonacci Drenzek, Principal, Edith E. Mackrille School
Bios of the composer, libretist, costume designer, music director, singers and other people whose vision brought this idea to life
A strong advocate of educational outreach, Mr. Hanke is the founder, producer, librettist, and performer of Opera-Tunity, a children’s opera company creating original operas that are fully integrated into the school curriculum. In addition, Mark has participated in the Carnegie Hall Educational Outreach Program working with High School students throughout New York City performing La Pasión según San Marco. In addition, Mark has performed with the Manhattan School of Music/Amato Opera Educational Outreach bringing the opera The Magic Flute to various schools in New York City. He has also worked alongside composer Debbie Teason in a music therapy/outreach setting developing, composing, and performing a short opera with special needs children in Connecticut.
Kento was the composer, music director, and koto player for Opera-Tunity’s The Adventure of Great Rabbit. In addition, Kento was the composer and music director of JYOU EN, a Yukio Mishima-inspired dance drama set in the Edo period, produced by unShout the Noise and performed in the Theatre of the New City. Kento is also the co-founder of the Traveling Opera Company, which staged its first production Beloved Prey, a 6-musician portable opera that combines Japanese and European traditional sensibilities in an immersive yet economic production. The project made an appearance on Fox 5 New York during the project's preview at Flushing Town Hall. Kento has received training in opera composition from Libby Larsen, John Corgliano and and William Bolcolm
Christopher Mirto is a director, producer, and performer. Most recently he directed The Adventures of Great Rabbit, a new children's opera, in West Haven, Connecticut and subUrbia by Eric Bogosian at Stella Adler Acting Studio. From 2012-2013 he was the Artistic Directing Fellow at The Studio Theatre in Washington DC. He is a producer, a director of musicals and plays, an opera director, and writer. Opera work includes Carmen at Norwalk Symphony Orchstra (with a cast of 250 singers and musicians), Semele and L’enfant et les sortileges with the graduate opera students at Manhattan School of Music, and assisting Richard Gammon on Susannah at Ash Lawn Opera Festival.
Nicole Weigelt, soprano, is a native of Oswego, NY. Previous roles include Mère Marie (Les Dialogues des Carmelites), Annina (Der Rosenkavalier), Zita (Gianni Schicchi), Marcellina (Le Nozze di Figaro), Filipvenva (Eugene Onegin), and Un pâtre (L’enfant et les Sortilèges) at the Chautauqua Institution, La Abuela (La Vida Breve) and Alkandre (Pénélope) at Manhattan School of Music, Hansel (Hansel and Gretel) and Third Lady (The Magic Flute) with the Hillman Opera; and Maurya (Riders to the Sea). Ms. Weigelt was a member of the Gerdine Young Artist program at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis and a member of the young artist program at Des Moines Metro Opera. Ms. Weigelt holds a Master of Music degree from Manhattan School of Music and a Bachelor of Music degree from SUNY Fredonia.
Nicole Slaven is a Brooklyn based costume and production designer. Recent design credits with Christopher Mirto include Evangeline, or the Belle of Acadia (The Longfellow Chorus), Circus Circus (FringeNYC), Foreign Bodies (Tin Lily Productions) and last year's hit sensation "Adventures of Great Rabbit." Other credits include Exile is My Home (Theatre for the New City), The Ballad of Ella May Wiggins (Working Theatre), The Way We Get By (American Theatre Group), The Member of the Wedding (Rutgers University- Camden Theatre), Sweeney Todd (Wyoming Seminary School), Fifth Planet (Lincoln Center Education), Three Sisters (Fractured Atlas), Dracula, or the Undead (Williamstown Theatre Festival), and the WordPlay Shakespeare film Romeo and Juliet.
If you'd like to know more about how to bring Opera-Tunity to your school, please get in touch with us. We'd be happy to provide more details and sample materials for perusal.