A Harmonious Relationship: Utah Opera’s Ongoing Collaboration with The Madeleine Choir School
In the heart of Salt Lake City, a unique collaboration has flourished between the Utah Opera and the Madeleine Choir School. This extraordinary partnership, rooted in a shared passion for the arts and a commitment to nurturing young talents, has not only enriched the cultural landscape of the community but has also provided a platform for budding musicians and singers to showcase their talents.
THE MADELEINE CHOIR SCHOOL
A pre-K through eighth grade private Catholic school renowned for its exceptional choral education, the Madeleine Choir School has become a training ground for young vocalists in Utah. Throughout their education, these students are shaped into accomplished performers—with the help of Melanie Malinka.
A native of Stuttgart, Germany, Malinka has served as Director of Music for The Madeleine Choir School since 2001, and stands as a cornerstone in shaping the musical education and prowess of the students. Her innovative teaching methods and unwavering commitment to excellence have fostered an environment where artistic expression is not only encouraged, but celebrated.
“I grew up finding a passion for opera and the incredible music of the opera world while performing in the children’s choir of the Staatsoper Stuttgart,” says Malinka. “It’s very exciting to see a younger generation get excited about this artform.”
A typical day for a student at The Madeleine Choir School begins at 8:25am with students starting their morning studying Math, Science, and History. Before lunch, students in grade five through eight participate in choir rehearsal, working on repertoire for the daily Masses, Sunday services, or upcoming concerts—like The Little Prince.
Following their lunch break, students resume classes with subject like World Languages (French, Spanish, Latin), Art, Music, Information Literacy, Social Emotional Learning, PE, Theology, etc. The school day ends around 3:30pm; however, that isn’t the end of the rehearsal day for these incredibly hardworking young artists!
After a quick snack break and some free time, students rehearse for Mass at 4:15pm, then perform Mass at The Cathedral of the Madeleine at 5:15pm until it concludes at 6:05pm. Students participating in the upcoming opera then head over to either the Utah Opera Productions Studio or Capital Theatre for chorus rehearsal.
Under her guidance, the students receive a comprehensive musical education that extends beyond the traditional classroom setting, equipping them with the skills and knowledge essential for a successful career in the arts or the appreciation for great music and the discipline required to create it. Part of this preparation stems from a flourishing collaboration with the Utah Opera.
“I can certainly teach about opera in the classroom,” says Malinka. “But it’s a very different experience when you’re a part of it. I believe that we’re growing a future audience. And every once in a while, there will be a child that chooses this field for their profession!”
A UNIQUE PARTNERSHIP
Utah Opera’s unique partnership with the Madeleine Choir School began in 2005, and continues its commitment to providing young students with an invaluable opportunity to perform on a professional stage, thus gaining real-world experience that goes beyond the confines of a classroom. To date, The Madeleine Choir School has participated in 21 Utah Opera productions including:
Under the guidance of Malinka, students can experience both the rigors and nuances of a professional opera production. This experience not only elevates their artistic capabilities but also imparts crucial lessons in discipline, teamwork, and the demands of live performance.
“It’s very similar to what the adults are doing,” says Malinka. “The students have memorization assignments, and we work through the music together with focuses on vocal expression and technique to ensure they’re properly prepared.”
The thrill of singing in a world-class venue alongside renowned professional opera artists contributes to the students’ growth, instilling a sense of confidence that can only be gained through real-world exposure. Moreover, the collaboration extends beyond the limelight, offering a backstage glimpse into the intricate workings of a professional opera company. The students have the opportunity to observe rehearsals, interact with directors and conductors, and gain insights into the myriad roles that contribute to the success of a grand production. As a result, these students develop a deep appreciation for the multifaceted world of opera.
“It’s a great opportunity for our students and because of that, I get very excited for them,” says Malinka. “We had 16 kids in La bohème, and 25 in The Little Prince, and we also had 11 kids in Wozzeck with the Utah Symphony, so these kids experienced a lot of incredible art in this year alone, in addition to what they experience through our program at The Cathedral of the Madeleine.”
Participating in these on-stage productions instills a sense of purpose, dedication, and resilience that will undoubtedly shape the students’ future endeavors, whether they choose to pursue a career in the arts or embark on diverse paths in other fields. In essence, this collaboration continues to cultivate a generation of young people poised to make a lasting impact within their community and the artistic world.
THE LITTLE PRINCE
In this much-anticipated rendition of The Little Prince, The Madeleine Choir School choristers, carefully honed by Melanie’s tutelage, will take center stage alongside Utah Opera’s artistic professionals. Together, these talented and hardworking performers—both young artists and seasoned professionals—will bring to life this highly-requested production. In doing so, audience members will have the rare opportunity to see the local talent of Utah’s upcoming young artists in a celebration of community and culture, highlighting the depth of talent that thrives within the heart of Utah.
“It’s beautiful to see all these kids I’ve taught over 23 years, how they find their way in our community. I never would have imagined the connections that the opportunity of working with Utah Opera has provided,” says Malinka. “You see this impact—how these children appreciate the artwork—and how they’re choosing to continue building this community as they grow. It’s incredibly special.”