By Ken Stone
Adelle Jenna Brown, almost 3, and Scarlett Sage Leitner, 2, weren’t officially part of the San Diego Opera’s first outdoor staging of “Cinderella.”
But they danced and twirled Saturday only feet from the mostly college-age performers at the Santee Trolley Square Amphitheatre.
And like the opera’s namesake, the girls with tiaras had a ball.
“It was absolutely gorgeous music, and the kids obviously enjoyed it,” said Adelle’s mother, Devon, 37, of Pacific Beach.
“I grew up going to musicals, and my family took me to the opera” between ages 8 and 13, she said. “My sister’s mother-in-law is very tied into the opera, and she invited us to come out on the trolley.”
Michael Ludlum brought five costumed kids — ages 14 months to 9 years — to see the debut of the hopefully named “Opera on Track” series.
“The kids heard the name ‘Cinderella,’ and BOOM, they want to be here,” said the San Carlos dad, who with his wife has been involved in musical theater for years (and studied opera in college).
All of this was music to the ears of Nicolas Reveles, the San Diego Opera’s director of education and community engagement.“I was delighted by the number of little children who were here, who had no compunction whatsoever about standing up and dancing,” he said after the half-hour show under sunny skies in the low 80s.
“As soon as [the audience] laughed in the first few moments of the scene with the sisters, when it opens, I felt: ‘OK, we’re telling the story. The people are getting it. It’s going to be good.’”
Reveles was relieved that the show was ready after only four rehearsals — a total of nine or 10 hours. He shortened Rossini’s two-act “La Cenerentola” down to a half-hour. Just the first act.
“Thirty minutes is a good time, particularly for people who are new to opera,” he said. “Let’s tell the first half, and get Cinderalla [to] the ball at least. I think it worked very well.”
All ages were part of the crowd of 200, some with umbrellas for shade, to see the free show intended to encourage opera attendance at downtown’s Civic Theatre — “only 100 steps” from the trolley’s Civic Center Station. Senior citizens with trolley access were among the targets.
The printed program contained info on 10 percent discounts for San Diego Opera’s season beginning Oct. 22. Those attending the eight-show trolley station series also can enter drawings for free ticket packages.
“Opera on Track” benefited from a $40,000 grant from OPERA America’s Building Opera Audiences Grant Program, support by the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation. Students or recent graduates of Point Loma Nazarene University and San Diego State made up the bulk of the cast, part of the local Opera Exposed program.
The series comes two years after San Diego Opera was at financial collapse and near shutdown.
Now, after a management shake-up and series of town hall meetings (and a slimmer budget under General Director David Bennett), the opera is showing life.
But it still has competition from traditional San Diego pursuits.
Asked her plans for the rest of the day, mom Devon Brown said: “Probably go back to the beach and cool off.”
Other stops of “Opera on Track”:
- 11 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 10, Market Creek Plaza Amphitheatre (Euclid Avenue Station, Orange Line) 404 Euclid Ave., San Diego
- 2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 10, Barrio Logan, Glashaus Art Studio (Barrio Logan Station, Blue Line) 1815 Main St., San Diego
- 10 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 17, Mission Valley Library Branch (Fenton Parkway Station, Green Line) 2123 Fenton Parkway, San Diego
- Noon Saturday, Sept. 17, 24th Street Station, National City (Blue Line)
- 2 p.m Saturday, Sept. 17, E Street Trolley Station, Chula Vista (Blue Line)
- 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 8, Children’s Museum Park—Museum Day (Convention Center Station, Green Line) 200 W. Island, San Diego
- And 1 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 9, Old Town Trolley Station (Green Line)
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