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Elementary students experience their first opera

 Students from Cesar Martinez's third-grade class at Dolores Huerta Elementary School joined fellow students as they walked north on Maple Avenue from their school to the Santee Education Complex for a performance by the Los Angeles Opera. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

Sneakers shuffled along Maple Street and voices rose with excitement as more than 300 people lined up to see the Los Angeles Opera.

The crowd was an unlikely one, wearing hoodies and knit caps instead of dresses and suits, but the students from Dolores Huerta Elementary were nonetheless excited to experience the performance live.

“My mom listens to opera sometimes,” one third-grader said. Her classmates quickly offered their own knowledge of the art.

“The women wear pretty dresses.”

“It’s nothing like Justin Bieber.”

Traffic paused as the school’s third-, fourth- and fifth-graders made their way to Santee Education Complex for a performance of “The Magic Dream,” a riff on Mozart’s “The Magic Flute.”

A partnership with the Opera, the Los Angeles Police Department, the Department of Transportation and City Councilwoman Jan Perry’s office offers schoolchildren the opportunity to attend the performance.

The opera goes out to the community to encourage students and parents to experience something they might not have access to, said Jennifer Babcock, the assistant director of education programs at the L.A. Opera.

Though the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion is minutes away from the South L.A. school, “not everyone gets to go to the opera.”

“So we go out to their home and invite them to ours,” Babcock said.

The audience erupted in laughter and applause as the players interpreted the originally German opera into an English-language educational lesson.

"It was great for them to inspire kids to use their imagination,” said Tomasa Hernandez, who helped chaperone her daughter’s fifth grade class.

“If we liked it, I can only imagine the kids enjoyed it more.”

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-- Dalina Castellanos

Photo: Students from Cesar Martinez's third-grade class at Dolores Huerta Elementary School joined fellow students as they walked north on Maple Avenue from their school to the Santee Education Complex for a performance by the Los Angeles Opera. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

 
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