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I still remember sitting under the Sputnik-style chandeliers at the Metropolitan Opera House to see The Magic Flute. Those chandeliers were a gift from Austria to thank America for helping to rebuild their opera house after WWII. The Magic Flute has been a strong contender for my favorite opera, until now. A new opera, created entirely by the Dwight-Englewood fifth grade’s Illumination Opera Company, called Walk a Day in My Shoes, opens this Spring. It promises to give The Magic Flute some competition.

Walk a Day in My Shoes is a production created using the “Creating Original Opera” program of the Metropolitan Opera Guild. The opera is entirely created by fifth graders. From set design to carpentry, from composing to writing, from performing to costume & makeup, from public relations to documentation, everything is done by students. Mary Heveran, our music teacher, has been providing this opportunity to D-E students for over 30 years. She says, “My favorite thing is how different each year’s story is and how different the students are from one year to the next.”

The opera means a lot to all the fifth graders who share this experience. Current fifth graders already agree that it is something that we will remember for a long time. However, something happened this year that changed so much and added a whole new story to make our experience unique.

March 12, 2020 was the last day we were together at school. As we left school that day, we had no idea that we would not ever be back for fifth grade. Zoom days went on and not being able to see each other added much sadness and a bit of madness, too. But we decided Covid-19 couldn’t stop us.

We had access to the Metropolitan Opera live streaming and Metropolitan Opera Zoom sessions with directors and singers. I went to the Zoom sessions every week and got to talk to Metropolitan Opera Executive Stage Director, Paula Suozzi, and Lee Abrahamian, Director of Press and Communications. I told them what we were going through and asked for their advice. They encouraged us and told us to take inspiration from the Houston Grand Opera’s recent digital version of The Marriage of Figaro. We looked at the Houston Grand Opera, as suggested, and did our own research on other sources and ideas to create our own original and digital opera. We agreed with Mary when she said, “The most challenging thing about this year was having to go from live performance to an online documentary about the opera.” But, we did it!

The Illumination Opera Company is very proud to present D-E’s first digital opera and make history! It will be a story we tell and share over and over again. It taught us to never give up. And, that is the message we want to pass on to the future fifth graders. See you at the Opera!

Editor’s Note: LS families will be hearing later this summer about the Grade 5 ‘digital opera link’!