Opera on KQED and in the Classroom

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Celebrate the Opera this September! KQED will air four performances by the San Francisco Opera, beginning with Puccini's La Bohème on September 1 at 8pm. Visit our program page for more details and air dates.

19th Century opera composer Richard Wagner described opera as "Gesamtkunstwerk," or "total artwork," in which music is combined with theater and visual arts to produce a complete multi-sensory experience. But few people realize that even a great master like Wagner required assistance from stage directors, conductors, costume and set designers, choreographers, technicians, singers, musicians, dancers and actors to create his “Gesamtkunstwerk.” In short, artists and artisans from several different disciplines must effectively collaborate in order to create a great operatic work.

Studying opera, both contemporary and historical, Eastern and Western, will give your students a better understanding of how collaboration is integral to the creation of this rich form of performing arts. The SF Opera's YouTube channel provides countless options for media introductions to the organizations, including previews of Tosca and La Bohème, and interviews with opera staff including directors and the wig and make-up shop masters.

The San Francisco Opera offers resources for educators including professional development, curriculum guides, and DVDs for your classroom such as a video production of the student-friendly opera, The Magic Flute, which is a highly accessible performance for younger students. If you are a Bay Area educator, please contact the San Francisco Opera at education@sfopera.com to obtain a free copy of the Magic Flute DVD.


Older students can compare San Francisco Opera's more traditional productions with one of its most recent, The Bonesetter's Daughter, based on the novel by Amy Tan. KQED produced a documentary about the making of the opera, which entailed years of research including trips to China to discover cultural music and art forms. Watch the Spark video about the making of The Bonesetter's Daughter on our website, and discover related web extras on YouTube such as a interviews with Chinese Circus Art performers.

The Spark video about Amy Tan's opera is available for streaming online, and will also air on KQED 9 and KQED Life August 31-September 4. Check the Spark schedule for air dates and times.

If you want to explore circus arts as an offshoot of your operatic lessons and activities, check out Spark's video and educator guide about Lu Yi's Circus Center in San Francisco.

Leave a comment below and let us know how you and your students engage with opera and other forms of performing arts. And remember to catch four exemplary San Francisco Opera performances from the comfort of your own living room this September on KQED 9. Don't forget your opera glasses!