Nov 26, 2014
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Students at Richmond’s Coronado Elementary School recently performed alongside professional opera singers in a 45-minute adaptation of La Bohème, according to the West Contra Costa Unified School District.

The video below shows an excerpt of the performance, which was put on by students and retired teacher Norah Moore, a literacy specialist.

Andrew Berger, education program director of the San Francisco Opera Guild, attended the show at the school, whose 480 students are learning from portable classrooms at Kennedy High while they await the opening of their new campus in fall.

The SF Opera Guild has been working with Coronado students for more than a decade. The performance was part of the guild’s Opera à la Carte program, which pairs students at more than 100 Bay Area schools with pro singers on abbreviated versions of popular operas. Students rehearse speaking roles, wear costumes and perform for the school community.

Due to the temporary campus, Coronado performances take place on a cafetorium stage without curtains or lights and despite frequent interruptions from security alarms, PA announcements and construction noise, according to the SF Opera Guild blog. Nevertheless, an opera official called the performances, led by music teacher Julie Bruins, “among the best I’ve seen.”

“By Act II they all seemed ready to jump up on stage to revel with Parpignol,” according to the blog.” During the final scene, one student covered his head to hide tears, and I wondered what in his young life might have provoked this response.”

The blog praised Norah Moore for spearheading the program at Coronado.

“Coronado is the perfect example of how a dedicated teacher can inspire not only her own students but the entire school population,” said Ellen Kerrigan, Opera à la Carte coordinator. “Richmond can be a challenging place to grow up, yet this school thrives. Norah understands the value of the arts, and continues to be a part of it even though she is now retired. Talented students might never have the opportunity to shine were it not for these kinds of programs and teachers.”


About the Author

Mike Aldax is the editor of the Richmond Standard. He has 13 years of journalism experience, most recently as a reporter for the San Francisco Examiner. He previously held roles as reporter and editor at Bay City News, Napa Valley Register, Garden Island Newspaper in Kaua’i, and the Queens Courier in New York City.