Rogue Opera's "Opera in the Schools" program has been touring Southern Oregon and Northern California since last October presenting its program "OperAntics!" three days a week.

Rogue Opera's "Opera in the Schools" program has been touring Southern Oregon and Northern California since last October presenting its program "OperAntics!" three days a week.

By the end of March the troupe of three singers and two musicians will have performed more than 100 times for some 20,000 students.

"OperAntics!" is a whirlwind of comic opera scenes in English from "Carmen," "The Marriage of Figaro," "Die Fledermaus," "Romeo and Juliet," "Hansel and Gretel," "The Medium" and "Cosi fan tutte." The characters break down the "fourth wall" between the students and the performers as they engage in a fast-paced, highly interactive educational music program. The music and characters bring the audience into the action and help the students gain an understanding of the important elements that create an opera.

An original script written by Rogue Opera education director and conductor David MacKenzie and artistic director Willene Gunn weaves together the story lines of the various operas while explaining the essential features of opera. Each cast member plays many roles throughout the course of the show. The cast includes sopranos Laura Hill and Mae Jeffs and tenor Mark Peterson. Flutist Staci Scalfari and pianist Kristen McCaffrey accompany each performance.

Teachers receive a detailed study guide in advance that allows them to prepare the students for what may well be their first encounter with opera. The students come to the performance with a general understanding of what to expect. All performances are followed by a question-and-answer session with the singers and instrumentalists.

The purpose of these presentations is to expose students to live music, encourage interest in classical music, opera and its performance, as well as to teach students that opera is fun and accessible to everyone.

At the end of each school show, Rogue Opera donates four free tickets to students at that school. The Tickets for Youth Program will donate $7,500 in tickets in 2008-2009 for students and their families to attend Rogue Opera's Voices from the Valley Opera Scenes performances in March or "La Bohème" in May.

School administrators typically select students who demonstrate a love for music, but may not have the financial ability to attend a professional musical production.

Performance dates:

11:50 a.m. and 12:45 p.m. Friday, Jan. 23, at Phoenix Elementary School, Phoenix 9:55 a.m. and 10:55 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 28, at Walker Elementary School, Ashland

Rogue Opera's education programs also include a youth mentoring program, a singer training series, and an opera workshop that culminates with Voices from the Valley Opera Scenes performances.

See rogueopera.org or call 608-6400.