By Emily Mosbacher
Special to The Almanac
For the past two years, my participation in Peninsula Teen Opera has shown me two things: first, how magical opera can be, both as a performer and an audience member; and second, how many kids share my passion.
Peninsula Teen Opera, or PTO, is an organization that offers professional theatrical training for teens. Founded in 1999, the organization runs under the following mission statement: Peninsula Teen Opera is a nonprofit organization dedicated to first-class opera training for young people and to sharing their performances with their peers in the community: "Teens Performing Opera for Teens."
PTO members will be sharing their passion for opera this weekend in the Canada College Main Theater, with performances of two abridged operatic works, along with a range of opera and operetta scenes — from Mozart to Gilbert & Sullivan.
Performances are at 7 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 17, and 3 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 18. We will perform condensed versions of the comic operetta, "Orpheus in the Underworld," by Offenbach, and the dramatic opera, "Orpheus and Eurydice" by Gluck.
Peninsula Teen Opera founders Hiltrud Eisele-Cathcart and Allen Cathcart have a rich history of opera experience, with 35 years of performing throughout North America, Europe and Australia.
Also, the many music coaches and stage directors at PTO are active with San Francisco Opera, other international opera companies, Opera San Jose, and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. One example is Hadley McCarroll, who collaborates with San Francisco Opera and San Francisco Opera Center, Opera San Jose, West Bay Opera, Berkeley Opera, and BASOTI — the Bay Area Summer Opera Theater Institute.
This faculty of opera professionals chooses to work with teen performers because of an abiding passion for teaching opera, and a desire to keep it alive.
Before joining PTO, I had participated only in my elementary school's Christmas pageants. My brother had for several years performed numerous leading roles with PTO, so last year I began performing with the company as a chorus member in Mozart's "The Marriage of Figaro."
After the little taste of PTO I experienced for an hour at the end of the Saturday chorus rehearsals, I could see why my brother had participated for so many years: The camaraderie among a group of people sharing a similar and unique interest is almost addictive.
Since then, I have learned and experienced so many things, including the fundamentals of being in a show, the sheer amount of time it takes to prepare, and the joy of making new friends. Above all, it's been an experience that I will never forget. I love rehearsing my songs and blocking/staging until I can do them in my sleep; I love being at a dress rehearsal until 11 p.m.; and most of all, I love showing an audience what I can do.
The unique PTO schedule that the Cathcarts have devised allows performers to be involved in other activities throughout the rehearsal process. With rehearsals only on Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., I was able to play competitive soccer while I prepared for our winter show.
And I am not alone in my range of interests: It seems as if all of the kids are doing two or three things at once, engaged in a dazzling array of activities outside of theater. However, for many Saturdays we come together to do something unique, interesting, and gripping. I think members agree that PTO is a truly admirable mission.
Please come and see for yourself on Saturday and Sunday.
Peninsula Teen Opera performs condensed versions of Offenbach's "Orpheus in the Underworld" and Gluck's "Orpheus and Eurydice," and several other musical scenes, at 7 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 17; and 3 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 18. Performances are in the Main Theater at Canada College, 4200 Farm Hill Blvd. in Redwood City. Tickets are $15, adults; $10, students and seniors. To order tickets, call 408-842-0994, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, call 400-4923, or e-mail email@example.com.