Opera ARIA (Arts Resources in Action)


After a semester of investigation into the needs of the school community and a semester of pilot testing, in 2009 San Francisco Opera launched its groundbreaking Opera ARIA programs, aimed at connecting professional artistic and creative elements of opera with classroom curricula. With a methodology focused on empowering educators to work with both the Opera and their own colleagues to develop curriculum connections, the Opera ARIA programs all stem from three key principles:

  1. a sustained, multi-step partnership between educators and an Opera teaching artist,
  2. a high level of flexibility for the educators, in content and curricular connections, and
  3. in-depth professional development for all participating educators.

In all Opera ARIA programs, educators are “in the driver’s seat” as they determine a program of operatic integration that will work for their classrooms. All ARIA programs are tailored to meet the needs of individual educators with development of classroom content being an ongoing dialogue between educators and Opera teaching artists, through which strategies for planning, implementation, evaluation and advocacy are created. The Opera provides in-depth, multi-dimensional resource materials along with a selection of experiential resources that educators select for bringing the operatic experience alive. Opportunities for resource-based learning include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Performing experience via a visit from the Opera’s young resident artists,
  • Costume design/creation experience via a costume staff school visit,
  • Set/prop design/creation experience via a scene shop visit and scene/prop staff school visit,
  • Performance space and historical/architectural understanding via a War Memorial Opera House tour,
  • Full performance experience via dress rehearsals, student performances, simulcasts and San Francisco Opera DVDs,
  • Understanding of the art form of opera by utilizing lessons learned in experiencing the aspects above in the creation of an original student opera work.

SFO believes that empowering the educators to bring opera into their curricula will provide the most deep and lasting educative experiences for students. Additionally, experience has shown that the best educators are those who are active learners themselves and, by fostering professional development as a core of all opera education programs, SFO’s programs aim for a high degree of sustainability: the educators and schools will own the programs that they participate in creating. 

PROGRAM 1: Opera ARIA Network
The goal of the Opera ARIA Network is to create an in-depth course of study that connects multiple artistic and creative elements with classroom curricula, customized to a particular school and to specific classrooms. The Network is built on these key elements:

  1. an in-school partnership between educators and an Opera teaching artist that includes up to 15 visits per classroom per semester (based on teacher request);
  2. a professional development series for all participating educators;
  3. the utilization of at least four opera resources to ensure a robust, multi-dimensional learning experience for the students (including access to guest artists for up to 7 visits per classroom per year); and
  4. planning meetings between the educators and teaching artist during each visit.

Grades: K-8

  1. A minimum of 2 dedicated educators with supportive school administrators.
  2. Educators who will participate in up to 20 hours of professional development per semester (approximately 35 hours per year).

Public School Fee: $1500 per school per year for 4-6 class participation. Scholarships are available.

The 2013-14 ARIA Network program is full.  Click here for information about applying for the 2014-15 school year.

PROGRAM 2: Opera ARIA Residency
The Opera ARIA Residency program focuses on connecting one artistic and creative element of opera with classroom curricula. The Residency includes:

  1. an in-school partnership between educators and Opera teaching artist of 4 to 12 in-class visits;
  2. one three-hour professional development session (including pre-planning activities);
  3. planning meetings between the educators and teaching artist during each visit; and
  4. one opera resource of the school’s choice.

Grades: K-8

  1. A minimum of 2 dedicated educators.
  2. Educators participate in professional development and planning meetings (see above.)

Public School Fee: $150 per visit for 4 classes (pro-rated for a smaller or larger number of classes) and $100-$250 per class per resource (i.e. $100 for a Costume staff visit; $250 for Dress Rehearsal attendance). Scholarships are available.

Download the application for the spring 2014 ARIA Residency program here.

PROGRAM 3: PEAK (Practicing Everyday Arts Knowledge) 
San Francisco Opera’s High School program, PEAK (Practicing Everyday Arts Knowledge) integrates opera’s multi-disciplinary characteristics into a cross-subject curriculum, utilizing a specific opera as a prism to explore the connection of a number of subjects to a single artwork. The study of the opera can occur in multiple classrooms in the school through multiple academic disciplines and a centralized theme (e.g. conflict, retaliation, jealousy). In addition to connecting opera to expected subjects (English/Language Arts, History/Social Studies, Visual and Performing Arts and Foreign Languages), more diverse curriculum connections will also be developed (Mathematics, Science, Career Technical Education, Physical Education, and Health Education). The PEAK program includes:

  1. an in-school partnership between educators and an Opera teaching artist of 4 to 12 in-class visits;
  2. two three-hour professional development (PD) sessions (which includes planning activities);
  3. planning meetings between the educators and teaching artist during each school visit; and
  4. access to one opera plus one opera resource of the Educator’s choice.

Grades: 8-12

  1. 1-4 dedicated educators.
  2. Educators who will participate in professional development and planning meetings (see above).

Public School Pilot Fee: $250 fee per classroom.

The spring 2014 PEAK application will be available soon. 

PROGRAM 4: Opera ARIA Professional Development for Educators Course
San Francisco Opera recognizes that many educators need access to resources and knowledge in order to bring opera into their classroom. In these instances, the Opera offers K-18 educators a series of Professional Development programs aimed at providing general tools to allow them to connect the study of opera to their classroom curricula/syllabi rather than providing low-touch in-school programs. These sessions focus on the study of opera in general and current SFO productions in particular, as well as addressing specific grade level curriculum implications. The Opera will utilize best practice successes from ARIA programs in these PD sessions, allowing educators to learn the fundamental basics of the operatic art form and the principles of arts integration. The Opera ARIA PD for Educators Course includes:

  1. A series of three-hour Professional Development (PD) sessions; and
  2. Access to select San Francisco Opera Final Dress Rehearsals for the educator and his/her classroom.

Grades: K-18
Note: Educators can sign up for the series or participate in individual sessions.
Fee: $50 for the series; $25 for each individual session. $250 for 20-30 seats at a dress rehearsal (pro-rated for smaller and larger classes).

Download the application for the 2013-2014 ARIA PD for Educators program here.

For more information, or to be added to our mailing list, please contact the San Francisco Education Department at or at 415-551-6296.



Program support for the 2012-13 San Francisco Opera Education Department’s school programs has been provided by the Bank of American Foundation, Columbia Foundation, Robert and Laura Cory, Gap Foundation, Walter & Elise Haas Fund, the Kimball Foundation, the Michelson Family Foundation, UBS, Union Bank, Wells Fargo, and the Zellerbach Family Foundation.

Union Bank