Friday, November 27, 2015 • 01:01

Opera closure would be a blow to Valley Center students

April 02, 2014
Over the past eight years, hundreds of Valley Center students in grades 3-12 have participated in the Muriel Gluck Student Nights at the Opera program. However, with the San Diego Opera slated to close its doors in the coming month, this valuable educational opportunity may soon be no more.

The San Diego Opera board shocked employees and opera-goers alike on March 19 when it announced the opera would cease operations on April 14 and begin selling off equipment. On Monday the board voted to postpone taking any dramatic steps until April 29, but the threat of closure still looms over the thousands of students county-wide who visit the opera each year.

Between 30 and 60 Valley Center students typically participate in each student night, which includes a preparatory discussion with an opera docent and a free trip to an opera dress rehearsal.

"What a wonderful experience for them to connect with the arts at such an early age," said Rosa Gonzalez, Valley Center Middle School Language Arts teacher, who has taken students to the opera for several years. "Our Valley Center students, many of them have little or no experience with the arts and culture, and basically the student nights at the opera brought that for our students."

In recent years, the program has also provided busing funds for teachers and students, further increasing the opportunity to anyone who is interested.

The opera board cited declining ticket sales and a lack of fundraising as the reasons for the closure. The coming month will be crucial in determining whether San Diego still has an opera, and whether Valley Center students still have access to this cultural opportunity.

"We will miss it for sure," said Gonzalez. "I hope that the community of San Diego as a whole supports it and someone comes up with the money for this to stay."

Sue Berg, a docent and usher for the opera, has visited many Valley Center classrooms in recent years to get students excited about visiting the opera.

"I bring costumes and some scripts and the students speak, and I play some clips from the opera so they can get an idea of the music and what opera is like," said Berg.

Berg dropped by John Ward's drama class at Valley Center High School on Tuesday to prepare the students for their April 3 opera trip to see the dress rehearsal of "Don Quixote." If the opera does close at the end of the month, this would be the final student night.

"It's a tremendous loss. They'll have no opportunity to see the opera," said Berg. "We still have some hope. People are organizing and meeting with the board and trying to work this out. We haven't given up."

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