By Nancy Gutierrez
On May 5, 48 students from Jefferson Elementary had an exciting lesson on Egyptian history. But they weren't in class or even in a library.
With help from the Fresno Grand Opera and the Community Enrichment Program, GATE students were able to attend a dress rehearsal of Aida, with the Youth Night at the Opera program.
Aida is an Italian Opera which tells the story of an Egyptian soldier and Ethiopian slave who are secretly in love.
"Aida is a servant who fell in love with a man named Radames who wanted to serve his country. They were torn apart by their father," said Amanda Castanon, a sixth grader at Jefferson. "It was really cool. Some people said it was going to be boring, but when it was over everyone was just talking all about it."
The GATE coordinator Kevin Umphfres said he found out about the Youth Night at the Opera Program from colleges and the Fresno Grand Opera.
Before attending the show they were visited by Merylyn Whited, a liaison with the Fresno Opera, who taught the students the story of Aida.
Umphfres said she also taught the students a lesson in proper opera etiquette.
"It is really designed for students and the actual show is a dress rehearsal," Umphfres said.
Students from across the valley attended the rehearsal and for many of the Lindsay students it was their first time ever seeing or hearing an Opera.
"I really like the music, and the clothes they wore, " Roxanne Soto, fourth grade, said.
"I really liked the ending. It shows how they get together and that they'll always be together," Samantha Jauregui said.
"Yeah, but dead," added Soto.
At the end of the Opera the two lovers die together.
"My favorite part was when the horse came out and it was live on the stage," Castanon said. "The whole crowd started screaming."
But in addition to being entertained the students said they felt they learned about different cultures and, though the story is fictional, they learned a about parts of history.
"Some people don't like reading and, this way, they can watch instead. Live is better. You get more out of it," Maricruz Lira said.
These new experiences also help to broaden the horizons of the students. It can also give them a break from the daily routine of school and schoolwork.
I think I could be an Opera singer," Socorro Ambriz said.
"I wouldn't," said Ahsaki Parra. "But I would be friends with them so I could get in for free."