Press Released: 19 Apr 2006

Opera Conference 2006 Closing Session: “Who's Afraid of Opera?” Honors Special Guest Tresa Waggoner

Colorado Music Teacher Lost Her Job for Teaching Faust

OPERA America, the national service organization for opera, announces that former Colorado music teacher, Tresa Waggoner, will be featured in the Saturday, May 6, 2006 (4:30 p.m.) closing session of Opera Conference 2006. Hosted by Seattle Opera, the annual gathering of opera professionals is the largest gathering of opera professionals in the world with more than 500 attendees expected from around the globe. Ms. Waggoner will be honored by the field as an advocate for opera in schools and for upholding her ethics in the face of adversity.

Ms. Waggoner sparked national attention earlier this year when she was placed on administrative leave, subsequently losing her job, after showing portions of a 33-year old opera video series titled “Who's Afraid of Opera?” to elementary schoolchildren in Bennett, Colorado, 25 miles east of Denver. The video featured soprano Dame Joan Sutherland and three sock puppets discussing Gounod's Faust. Waggoner hoped to use the video to illustrate the various voice types in opera to the classes. Faust, a legendary character in music and literature, dates back to a medieval morality tale of a deeply depressed man who sells his soul to the devil. The classroom study escalated into controversy when parents of several children in the class claimed that their children were traumatized by the video.

Originally, officials on the Bennett school board were supportive of Waggoner's attempt to bring opera into the classroom. Instead, they soon relieved her of her duties. Following the incident, scheduled performances by Opera Colorado at the school were cancelled.

Opera Colorado General Director Peter Russell said, “During her entirely surreal ordeal with the Bennett, Colorado, public school system, Tresa Waggoner, a wonderful ambassador and outreach artist for OC, remained a model of quiet dignity and courage. We are thrilled that OPERA America finds it appropriate to pay tribute to her commitment to introducing Colorado 's public school students to our art form, and to her grace under fire for attempting to do so.

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