The Meaning of Outreach

To kick off the Opera to Go! portion of the HGOco summer blog, I would like to begin with a “testimonial” from one of our singers, Cecilia Duarte.

“This is my first year as a member of Opera to Go! It has been a good challenge tying to keep the energy up for 45 minutes. It may sound easy, but an audience full of kids is demanding. Now, performing Romeo & Juliet for high schools has brought new challenges for us.

“It wasn't until last month that the word "outreach" came to mean something to me. Thanks to the Texas Arts Alliance grant that we received, we have been able to perform in many community centers and libraries. One of the greatest experiences for us was mid-May when we performed at South Houston Branch library. We had around 6 to 8 people in the audience: two moms with a toddler and a little girl, and a couple of teenagers. The scene didn't look promising; however, when we started singing, they went completely quiet and attentive and stayed like that for the whole show. They had never heard an opera before, but still, they showed how happy and interested they were. There was a kid that stayed after the show asking all kinds of questions about singing and opera.

“At the end of May we went to JD Walker Community Center where people clapped every time they heard a high note or liked what we did on stage. Some of them were constantly clapping through our arias! At the end, one lady came to me and told me: "Thanks for performing as if you were doing it at the Wortham." It made my whole day! I said to her that every performance had the same importance; that it didn't matter where it was.

“Finally, we went to Lee High School, where we performed for kids of immigrants. They were kind of crazy when they came into the auditorium. They had a field day that day, so they were tired, and we weren’t sure what to expect. Again, they seemed to change their state of mind when we started the show. They became very exited and interested in what we were doing. At the end, we got to stay to talk to them about our backgrounds and how we ended up singing opera.

“I think we always give something to our audience when we perform, but they also give us something in return. Their responses give new meaning to what we do, and it matters more because we share our music with someone who needs it. For many of them, even if they wanted to go to the opera they would not be able to do so. They might not know how to say what they think with a technical vocabulary, but they are honest, and show appreciation and gratefulness in their attitudes. It is wonderful to see when they are moved.”

-Cecilia Duarte, Opera to Go! mezzo-soprano