Seattle Opera premieres bilingual children’s opera

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Soprano Serena Eduljee stars as the title character in the Seattle Opera's new bilingual children’s opera. Cinderella en España. Philip Newton photo
Soprano Serena Eduljee stars as the title character in the Seattle Opera’s new bilingual children’s opera. Cinderella en España. Philip Newton photo

Bring the whole family to see Cinderella en Españaa universal rags-to-riches tale that explores the beauty of kindness and the ugliness of mistreating others. Seattle Opera will offer its new Spanish/English performance at both its annual Frost Fest on Feb. 4 at Cornish Playhouse, and on March 19 at Kirkland Performance Center; ultimately, the production will tour more than 40 elementary schools statewide.

Twenty-two percent of Washington State students are Hispanic or Latinx (the largest group after white students—56.1 percent—according to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction). Thus, it’s imperative that Seattle Opera speaks to a diverse and multicultural audience—especially to young people, said Seattle Opera General Director Aidan Lang.

“We hope that Cinderella will capture the imaginations of all children, in addition to welcoming Spanish speakers of all races and backgrounds; they are a significant and important group in our community,” Lang said. “The opera will include a mix of the two languages in a way that’s easy for all to understand, and may even help English speakers learn a word or two en español.” 

Far from the Disney version of the story, the performance is set in vibrant, contemporary Barcelona. Sopranos Jessica Robins Milanese and Serena Eduljee share the role of the strong protagonist, whose heart remains open and generous despite the loss of her parents—and being picked on by her superficial step-family. Ultimately, Cinderella meets her prince after receiving the gift of compassion from a stranger. With characters who drink espresso and use social media on their cell phones, Cinderella offers a positive message of family, forgiveness, and the importance of kindness in a time period young audiences will recognize.

This new bilingual production is just one example of how the company is working to reduce historic structural barriers that have made opera inaccessible. In keeping with the mission to serve the community, another example is the company’s musical storytelling program Opera Time, which fosters literacy in and through the arts. More than half the schools that Seattle Opera serves are Title I, where the majority of students receive free or reduced lunch. Educational performances and programs are offered to these schools free of charge.