New Orleans Opera, Community Works and Dillard University
The first New Orleans Opera Summer Youth Festival and Theatre Camp made its debut in July, 2019. Originally envisioned and planned as a one-week camp, the decision to expand the undertaking to two weeks was made in May, following a series of meetings with Community Works of Louisiana, and the resulting product was a ten-day intensive that lasted from July 15 to July 26, (with a weekend off for campers after each full week of work).
The schedule was intense and demanding, but it was also filled with the delights of artistic discovery and joy! During the morning sessions, which lasted from 9:00 a.m. to noon, the campers built extravagant costumes from household objects, like napkins, paper plates and balloons.
They also built bird cages. The concept of these projects – originated and executed by Julie Winn, Costume Master at New Orleans Opera – was to provide dresses for Georges Bizet’s opera Carmen and bird cages for Papageno, a mythical bird-catcher in W.A. Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute.
Both of these operas are on the list of works that New Orleans Opera will present during the course of our 2019-2020 season.
The afternoon sessions took place from 12:15 to 3:00 p.m. They were directed by Taylor Ott, who joined the artistic team in Spring, 2019. Afternoon sessions focused on developing the students’ acting and singing skill-sets and creating characters for the operas Carmen and The Magic Flute. Assisted by our music director, conductor and principal vocal coach, Chase Ludeau, the students successfully prepared a thirty minute program, with a script by Taylor Ott and a musical score translation that was revised by William Mouat in order to make it accessible to the students. Our students ranged from 10 to 12 years in age (grades 4 to 6), and they represented numerous schools in the New Orleans community.
One of the most poignant facets of this summer festival was the collaborative aspect. Community Works Executive Director Chandler Nutik orchestrated the funding for each aspect of the project’s components, from the rental of the technical facilities at Dillard University, to the staff salaries for the New Orleans Opera teaching artists, Julie Winn, Taylor Ott and Chase Ludeau. Community Works On-Site Supervisor Todd Shaffer was also a prime-mover in guaranteeing the success of the endeavor. Todd spent every moment of his time making sure that the students were at the proper locations for the proper events and he went as far as making sure that the t-shirts that Taylor designed for the performance were distributed to each student. We are also tremendously grateful to Cortheal Clark at Dillard University Theatre, and interns Kaila Billups and Dionna Malone. Kaila and Dionna provided technical support and a lighting design, as well as classroom support for the entire project.
In short, this project was a miracle for the students and a shining example of what can be, and is possible for the community of New Orleans in terms of collaborative spirit and arts enrichment education! Hats off to all and Bravi!
—William Mouat, New Orleans Opera Director of Education, Project Producer and Coordinator, and Artistic Supervisor