Over 3,000 Central Valley schoolchildren enjoyed an original opera, commissioned and performed by the Fresno State Children’s Opera. This was a first exposure to opera for many of the children and is fostering an appreciation for the arts that can last a lifetime.

As a recipient of the Central Valley Community Foundation’s 2016 Arts and Culture grant awards, the Fresno State Opera Theater (FSOT) launched the Fresno State Children’s Opera to bring music, art, and culture to thousands of children across Fresno County.

For nearly for a decade, the Fresno State Opera Theater (FSOT) has established a reputation for high quality operatic performance in the Central Valley. Students come from all across the Valley to study and perform opera. Under the guidance of Dr. Anthony Radford, Associate Professor of Voice and Opera at Fresno State, FSOT students have consistently won regional voice competitions.

In 2016, the Fresno State Opera Theater expanded its audience to children, commissioning an original opera, Lucinda y Las Flores de la Nochebuena, composed by Dr. Evan Mack and Joshua McGuire, who currently teach at Skidmore College and Vanderbilt University, respectively. Fresno State Opera Theater juniors, seniors, and graduate students performed the piece at elementary schools throughout the area.

Opera is often regarded as an inaccessible or intimidating art form since many operas are written in Italian, French, or German. To connect with children from the Central Valley, many of whom are Hispanic, the Fresno State Children’s Opera based Lucinda on the Mexican folk tale of the origin of poinsettias at Christmas with words and lyrics in both English and Spanish.

Lucinda tells the story of a young girl living in a small town in Mexico.  In this story Lucinda and her ailing mother are making a blanket as a gift for the nativity scene at the Christmas Eve service. Lucinda’s mother is too sick to help Lucinda finish the blanket and cannot go to the service with her. Lucinda leaves to celebrate Christmas Eve without her mother and without a gift. On the way to church she picks some weeds by the side of the road as a gift and she worries that they might not be good enough for the nativity scene. To her delight when she offers the gift at the altar the weeds bloom into beautiful poinsettias and Lucinda learns that the best gift is one that comes from the heart.

Students prepared crafts for the show and were invited to sing along, making Lucinda an unforgettable and interactive experience for its young audience.

The Fresno State Children’s Opera brought Lucinda to several schools that normally would have been unable to host such events due to budget constraints. Further expanding their audience, Fresno State Children’s Opera also held outdoor performances in the green space at the Campus Pointe Mall and on the renovated public space at Fulton Mall. Performances of Lucinda were filmed by the Fresno State Television Studio to reach even larger audiences across TV and the internet, and were broadcast on CMAC.

Click here for KSEE24’s outstanding coverage of the program on Education Matters.

The inaugural season of the Fresno State Children’s Opera was fully booked, and over 3,000 schoolchildren enjoyed performances of Lucinda in November and December. If you didn’t get a chance to see Lucinda in 2016, don’t worry: the Fresno State Children’s Opera plans to go on tour again this fall!

For more information on the Fresno State Children’s Opera, including how to book a performance of Lucinda y Las Flores de la Nochebuena, please visit their webpage or check out this video.

The Central Valley Community Foundation is proud to support projects such as the Fresno State Children’s Opera through our competitive Arts and Culture grant program. For more information on grants from CVCF, please visit the Grants Overview page on our website.