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Atlanta Opera reimagines “Hansel & Gretel” for virtual storytime sessions

Scene from Story Time with Hansel and Gretel

The Atlanta Opera Presents Story Time with Hansel and Gretel – A Show Reimagined for Zoom – in Virtual Classrooms, Libraries & Summer Camp

The Atlanta Opera has found a new way of taking opera to Georgia’s students during the pandemic. Instead of touring to school theaters and gymnasiums with the Studio Tour production of Hansel and Gretel, originally slated for May, the company has created a new virtual show expressly for distance learning. Wittily adapted by director Brenna Corner, this reimagining of Humperdink’s original tale is opera for the Zoom age: Story Time with Hansel and Gretel finds the siblings isolating at home, but apart from one another, since Gretel has been stuck at Grandma’s since the pandemic began, and the Gingerbread Witch is a non-tech-savvy senior who has trouble receiving their video call. Click here to see an excerpt from Story Time with Hansel and Gretel.

During the final weeks of the academic year, which ended for most of Georgia’s public schools in mid-May, Story Time with Hansel and Gretel was presented in virtual field trips to students, live via Zoom. Scheduled to debut at 11am ET tomorrow (Wed, June 10) at a Facebook Watch party hosted by Atlanta’s Fulton County Library System, a recorded version – complete with supplementary learning materials – is now available for families, libraries and summer camps. Starring Jessica Wax and Amy Smithwick in the title roles, with August Bair as the father, Robert Banks as the technologically challenged Witch, Choo Choo Hu on piano, and costumes by Joanna Schmink, Story Time with Hansel and Gretel is directed by Brenna Corner, whose live take on the opera has been called “a magical introduction to the art form” (San Diego Union Tribune). Starting tomorrow, the recorded version will be also available at The Atlanta Opera’s website.

The virtual production is the most recent initiative from The Atlanta Opera’s new Community Service Task Force, which has already helped the company win recognition as a model for innovation during the COVID-19 crisis. As reported by Opera Wire and the Associated Press, since mid-March the company’s costume shop has been dedicated to the full-time mass-manufacture of vital medical masks and hospital gowns for healthcare workers on the frontline. Similarly, in a special community initiative, members of The Atlanta Opera Chorus and The Atlanta Opera Studio recorded personalized “Singing Telegrams” for frontline healthcare workers, hospital patients, members of senior living facilities and others in need of emotional support. As CNN wrote in a dedicated feature:

“Opera houses and theaters might be shut down, but The Atlanta Opera is not staying quiet. They are putting their ‘show must go on’ attitude to good use by gathering their ensemble to help others during the pandemic. … Bravo!”

Educators praise Story Time with Hansel and Gretel

Educators are praising Story Time with Hansel and Gretel for bringing social emotional learning to virtual classrooms during this difficult time. LaJuana Ezzard, Master Teacher Leader and Director of Partnerships and Programs at Harper-Archer Elementary School, says:

“The Hansel and Gretel virtual experience was wonderful. Our scholars were engaged and excited to attend the performance. Though virtual, the actors were authentic and attentive to their audience! I highly recommend this performance to every school that would like to remove barriers to the arts.”

Similarly, Alexis Lundy, Music Teacher and Director of Lower School Chorus at Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School, says:

“Many thanks to the Atlanta Opera Studio Tour for their engaging and fun Virtual Story Hour. They charmingly brought to life the tale of Hansel and Gretel through the retelling of the story, a performance of a beautiful duet, and even a live performance from the Witch! The performance via Zoom was a great opportunity to gather as a school community from our own homes to enjoy the story, the music, and to learn a bit more about opera. Thank you for sharing the beauty of opera and storytelling with our school!”

The Atlanta Opera’s education programs have reached more than 29,000 students at 169 schools across the state of Georgia during the 2019–20 season. The company’s programs seek to inspire creativity, stimulate critical conversations, promote an enduring appreciation of the arts, and create audiences for the future. The education team is committed to higher levels of learning and programming that foster cross-curricular connections. In addition to Story Time with Hansel and Gretel, the company has hosted a variety of virtual sessions ranging from masterclasses with Studio Aritsts to workshops about technical theater and careers in opera. Click here to learn more about the Hansel & Gretel Studio Tour, here to learn more about The Atlanta Opera’s education program, and here to learn more about the company’s digital learning resources for opera at home.

About The Atlanta Opera

The Atlanta Opera’s mission is to build the major international opera company that Atlanta deserves, while reimagining what the art form can be. Founded in 1979, The Atlanta Opera celebrates its 40th anniversary this season. The company works with world-renowned singers, conductors, directors, and designers who seek to enhance the art form. Under the leadership of internationally recognized stage director and Carl W. Knobloch, Jr. General & Artistic Director Tomer Zvulun, The Atlanta Opera expanded from three to four mainstage productions at Cobb Energy Centre and launched the acclaimed Discoveries series. In recent years, the company has been named among the “Best of 2015” by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, has been nominated for a 2016 International Opera Award, and has won ArtsATL’s 2019 Luminary Award for Community Engagement in recognition of its successful Veterans Program in partnership with the Home Depot Foundation. In addition, The Atlanta Opera was featured in a 2018 Harvard Business School case study about successful organizational growth, and Zvulun was invited to present a TEDx Talk at Emory University entitled “The Ambidextrous Opera Company, or Opera in the Age of iPhones.”

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© 21C Media Group, June 2020


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