MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- Opera is drama set to music — a style that originated in Europe in the 16th century. Broadway musicals are almost the American version of opera that later developed in the 19th century.
The two types of theatre are still popular among a wide range of people, but there are also those who know nothing about these classic forms of entertainment.
An audience of more than 300 people experienced and learned about both types of music during a performance from the Great American Voices Military Base Tour: Unforgettable Melodies from Opera and Broadway Feb. 8 at the Combat Center’s Sunset Cinema.
The tour is presented by the National Endowment for the Arts and OPERA America, a non-profit organization supporting the creation, presentation and enjoyment of the art form. Admission was free to military personnel and their families.
There were five professional opera and Broadway performers and one pianist that starred in the event.
The musicians performed 13 ballads, including some from Georges Bizet’s “Carmen,” Leonard Bernstein’s “West Side Story” and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “Don Giovanni.”
Before each performance, there was brief background information given and translation for the songs sang in a foreign language.
The show was sprinkled with light humor and received a standing ovation after the closing performance by all artists singing America the Beautiful.
In addition to the show here, the musicians visited the Twentynine Palms High School to work with 60 pre-selected ninth- through 12th-grade students who are serious about pursuing a career in the music industry.
The musicians spent four hours a day for two days, working with the students, practicing opera and Broadway selections. The students performed in front of other students, including guests from Condor Elementary School’s fifth- and sixth-grade classes, Feb. 9.
“It was fantastic,” said Amy Woods, principal, Twentynine Palms High School. “The kids got the opportunity to work with professionals and receive individual attention.
It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for these students to be around the culture the singers bring.”
Planning for the musical guests began in mid-summer last year, and the high school has been anticipating the visit ever since, she said.
“The kids loved it and greatly appreciated the experience,” Woods said.
The performers also spent time with the fifth- and sixth-grade students from Condor Elementary before the high school’s performance.
With audience participation from the elementary students, the singers performed skits from various plays.
“They made it real fun for the kids,” said Carol Dougwillo, sixth-grade teacher, Condor Elementary School. “It was great to have professional performers of that caliber, with so much experience, interacting with our students.”
“It was just awesome to be able to have that much culture in our area,” Dougwillo continued.
The NEA and the Department of Defense have coordinated to bring other art projects to military installations over the past couple years. “Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience,” brought writing workshops to more than 20 bases nationwide and abroad. “Shakespeare in American Communities Military Base Tour,” took the Alabama Shakespeare Festival and its production of Macbeth to 13 bases across the country.
In support of excellence and education of the arts, the NEA launched the Great American Voices Tour, in coordination with DoD, in October to reach more than 39 bases nationwide and will continue until August.
For more information or a tour schedule, log onto http://www.greatamericanvoices.org