José Luis Moscovich

General Director

62nd Season  2017-18


opera in the schools


Opera In The Schools (OITS) - 32nd Season

West Bay Opera’s Opera In The Schools (OITS) program has been raising awareness about opera among grade-school children since 1984. Each year, the OITS cast performs in 30 to 40 grade schools, reaching nearly 20,000 children.  Participating OITS schools are located throughout the San Francisco Peninsula and South Bay, from Daly City to the north to as far south as Santa Cruz.

OITS singers perform a standard-repertoire opera, in English translation, abridged and adapted for children. Our adaptations include opportunities for some of the children to participate in the productions, either as chorus singers, actors, or stage hands.

Participating schools receive preparatory materials well in advance of the performance. Teachers use these materials to prepare the chorus and help the children learn their acting parts, and also to enhance the children's understanding of the genre and of the particular work we are presenting. This contributes to the children's appreciation of the genre and to their enjoyment of the production.  For some of them, this first exposure can be the start of a very rewarding life-long relationship with opera.

The 2016-2017 OITS season will feature a special adaptation of the opera

Hansel and Gretel

by Engelbert Humperdinck

Don't Wait to Schedule a Performance!

Donations from private donors and foundations enable us to subsidize the cost of our program to the schools. Each season, the subsidized fees are offered on a first-come, first-served basis, until subsidy funds are exhausted. We encourage you to contact us as soon as possible during October to reserve your performance date and secure the lower fees.

The subsidized fees are $600 for a single performance and $770 for two consecutive performances on the same morning.*





OITS performances are only offered in the morning.  Typical schedule for two performances is 9:15 and 10:30 a.m.

Performances can be scheduled Monday through Friday from the last week in January to the first week in June.

For general questions, and to schedule a performance, contact our


Balbina Heitner



or call her directly at 415-810-5148

We will make every effort to accommodate your date requests, but for the sake of efficiency, please write us with a choice of at least 3 dates, or a range of dates that work for you. We will respond within 48 hours of receiving your e-mail.




Engelbert Humperdinck was born in Germany in 1854 and died in 1921.  A brilliant music student, his music won him many prizes and for a year he served as an assistant to the famous German composer Richard Wagner.  Due to the success of his opera Hansel and Gretel he became a full-time composer.  He composed seven operas.

Children may already know the original story of Hansel and Gretel from Grimm's Fairy Tales.  The opera's libretto (the script) written by Humperdinck's sister, Adelheid Wette, and first performed in 1893, softens the story by making the mother and father more loving than the harsh characters in the fairy tale.  The full opera features some characters like the Sandman (or sleep fairy), the Dew Fairy (or dawn fairy), and some angels that do not appear in our abridged version.  The opera includes nursery rhymes well known to German children, and Hansel and Gretel sing and dance to these songs.  The opera was an immediate success and has been translated into many different languages.

Although the story of the opera is a fairy tale, it is loved by adults as well as children.  Many operas written for adults have stories based on folk tales.


In addition to the actual performance by OITS in your school, you will receive materials that will enable you to prepare the students in advance to really profit from the experience. Here are the details:

West Bay Opera Provides:

  • three professional singers, in costume, and a pianist;
  • a 40-minute performance of our Engish adaptation of Hansel and Gretel
  • small supporting parts and an optional chorus designed to involve your student-volunteers
  • written pedagogical materials for advance in-classroom preparation, including a synopsis of the opera, a biographical note about the composer, mp3s and sheet music for chorus practice (if you choose to include the optional chorus), definitions of key opera and music concepts, and materials appropriate for the lower grades, such as coloring sketches of the main characters and opera crossword puzzles.

The Schools Provide:

  • a piano in good tune
  • a performance area cleared of other material and available at least one hour prior to the scheduled start of the performance
  • volunteer student actors, as detailed in the next section
  • a custodian on standby
  • in-classroom review of preparation materials (to make the experience more meaningful for the students)

Our performances are structured so as to provide opportunities for student participation. This is a key element in demystifying opera and making it real and fun for the children, whether they are volunteering or watching their peers do it.

Students must be selected and assigned to the specific parts well in advance of the performance and they need to be instructed to be available 45 minutes before the scheduled performance time. Our singers and stage director will be in the school at least an hour before, to set up and then work with the students to get them staged into the show and make them feel at ease.

For Hansel and Gretel, schools must provide student-volunteers (4th grade or higher) as follows:

  • 1 girl to be Gertrude, Hansel and Gretel's mother. This girl should be your best actress and must learn,  in advance, several lines at the beginning and 1 line at the end.
  • 1 student to be the Sandman (must learn 6 lines in advance.)
  • 4 students to be Cookies (must learn in advance 1 line each.)
  • 2 students to be Goblins/Witch's Assistants (non-speaking parts)
  • All the above will need to learn 2 lines to say at the very end

If your school is requesting performances at 2 assemblies (we do both in the same morning), the same student volunteers will be used in both performances.

Chorus (this is optional) -- The chorus may be a group of any size but advance preparation is required for the children to learn the music before they come to the performance.  If you are requesting two assemblies, you can prepare two separate choruses, or use the same children at both.   If there are two separate choruses, each group should report 15 minutes before their own performance time to get instructions and to rehearse their music with our accompanist.  The teachers’ materials include the sheet music and mp3s of the music to be practiced.

All study materials are posted on this site and several full packets will also be mailed to the schools that choose to participate in the program, approximately 6 weeks prior to the scheduled performances at each school.


Place: Germany, a village at the end of the forest

Time: The 19th century


Act 1 -  Hansel and Gretel's home

The story takes place in Germany, in a village on the edge of the forest. Hansel and Gretel are the children of a poor broom-maker and his wife. While their mother and father are away selling brooms, the children are at home doing chores.  They are hungry but, knowing there is no food in the house, they pass the time singing and dancing.  Gertrude, their mother comes home very tired and worried about having no food.  She sees them playing and dancing and gets mad at them. She sends them into the woods to gather strawberries.  She prays for help and then falls asleep.

Peter, the chidren’s father, comes home singing a happy song as he has sold some of his brooms.  He has a bag full of good food for the family.  He inquires about the children and his wife tells him she sent them to gather berries in the forest. When he hears this, he gets terribly worried because he knows that a wicked witch lives there.  He knows the witch captures lost children and turns them into gingerbread cookies and then eats them.  Mother and father rush out to find Hansel and Gretel.


Act 2 - In the forest

Hansel and Gretel are wandering in the woods, gathering strawberries, but they eat more berries than they put into their baskets.  As it grows darker, they realize they are lost.  They hear the wind in the trees and get scared.  The Sandman appears and sprinkles sand in their eyes to make them sleepy.  Sleepily, they huddle under a tree and sing a prayer to their guardian angels for help.  This calms them, and they fall asleep while angels float above them.


Act 3 - In the witch's home

In the morning the Dew Fairy awakens the children.  They see a little cottage nearby and note that it is made of gingerbread and other sweets one can eat.  They don't know that it is the home of the wicked witch! Since they are so hungry, they nibble on the house and soon hear her calling out asking who is eating her house.  She comes out and casts a spell over Hansel and Gretel so they can't escape.  She puts Hansel in a cage to fatten him up.  When the witch tries to feel his finger to see whether he's fat enough to eat, Hansel is smart enough to trick her by holding out a thin stick.  She decides she must fatten him up, and she sings of her joy at having captured two more children.

The witch breaks the spell over Gretel so she can help light the oven.  Gretel remembers the words that the witch used to put a spell over Hansel and manages to break that spell herself and frees Hansel from the cage.  Then the witch tries to lure Gretel into the oven.  Gretel is clever enough to pretend that she doesn't understand what the witch wants her to do at the oven.  The wicked witch goes to the oven to show her, and Gretel pushes the witch into the oven.  Suddenly the oven explodes, and the witch's evil spell is broken, and the witch is turned into gingerbread.  All the children who had been under the witch's spell as gingerbread figures suddenly come to life.  Now freed, they dance joyously with Hansel and Gretel.  Peter and Gertrude arrive at this point, and they all sing a chorus of thanksgiving.








MP3s FOR HANSEL AND GRETEL CHORUS MUSIC PRACTICE (Click on each item to download.)

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Photo: Keira Heu-Jwyn Chang