Street Stories Told in San Jose's Rap Opera Project

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Beatboxer, MC and educator Carlos Aguirre wants to make one thing clear: The Rap Opera Project is not 'Hamilton.'

Launched in 2017 by Opera Cultura with funding from Silicon Valley Create's X Factor grant, the Rap Opera Project is really about modern-day storytelling. Over the course of multiple workshops at both the Santa Clara County Juvenile Hall and San Jose’s MACLA, Aguirre coaxed poems, short stories and rap lyrics out of participating youth. “These are rough, guttural street stories, not being told,” he says.

Aguirre drew unifying themes from the writing, fine-tuned the rhymes and worked with opera singer Alexandra Sessler, multidisciplinary artist Cellista and Opera Cultura founder and director Hector Armienta to produce an intimate performance at MACLA in early July. The collaborators hope to expand the project and stage a larger production.

Watch a young man's deeply personal writing -- including the anxieties and fears of growing up amidst gang violence in San Jose -- transform into a dramatic musical performance. -- Text by Sarah Hotchkiss