Melody-Making Students Enjoy Night of Opera

For the last San Fernando Valley performance of the opera "A Place to Call Home," members of the Chatsworth High School Chorus joined with the Los Angeles Music Center Opera to tell the poignant tale of four immigrant teen-agers.

Opera members said they wanted to leave the students thinking.

"Hopefully, they'll realize watching this performance that opera is not a bunch of dull people on stage," said Greg Fedderly, one of the four L. A. Opera performers who took part in the production last week.

"It's a subject that's great to take to high school students because it's something that all of them can identify with," Fedderly said.

The opera, which was commissioned by the L. A. Opera two years ago, will have been performed in 34 Los Angeles Unified School District high schools by the end of the fall semester.

Students from each of the schools who participated in the opera spent weeks rehearsing to assist the professionals with singing and choreographed movement.

Jeremiah Rees, a junior at Chatsworth who participated in the performance, said working with the professionals taught him many things.

"I didn't realize how quickly the music changes in an opera," Rees said. "You usually just think of a fat lady singing."

He thinks the opera sent an important message to his peers.

"I just hope they take it as a way of not being prejudiced or harsh on new people," he said.

In an upbeat, fast-moving story filled with new-kid anxiety, turf wars and songs about the pain of loneliness and the frustration of cultural misunderstanding, the four immigrants frantically try to adjust to their new surroundings. In the final scene, the entire cast joins in an uplifting song that emphasizes the opera's strongest message.

"Home isn't where you're from but where you've made it to," the students and professionals sing together.

Stephanie Friedman, a 10th-grader who watched the performance, said the message is important for everyone.

"There are so many different people in the United States," Friedman said. "Everyone needs a fair shot in the world."

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