In a new partnership between the Orange County Library System and the UCF Opera program students, community members and opera lovers can see free opera performances throughout the year.

“How great would it be to inspire a young library user to follow a career in opera while also giving the UCF students a place to perfect their skills?” said Kris Woodson, development manager of OCLS programs and promotions. “It’d be a win-win!”

The Orlando Opera had partnered with Woodson and the library to offer free opera programs to the public, which lasted almost a year and served about 1,000 guests. The company hit hard times and in April 2009 closed due to economic hardships including lower ticket sales, reduced contributions and defaults on pledges from donors.

In an attempt to expand the opportunities available for its students, while also picking up where the Orlando Opera left off, the UCF Opera program has partnered with the Orange County Library System at its downtown branch for a series of performances totaling four for the year.

“The library plays a very, very vital role in the community, especially during these tough economic times,” Woodson said. “We’re more than just books.”

The library offers over 300 classes every week, which Woodson says allows it to expose residents to things they might not otherwise be able to enjoy.

“A lot of times opera is thought of as more of a perk of the affluent and it’s really not,” Woodson said. “It’s an experience for every class.”

The opera program at UCF partners with public schools in Central Florida, but Thomas Potter, the UCF voice and choral area coordinator, said the library is a venue that would allow him to reach homeschooled children.

“I wanted to be able to reach kids that might not get the same exposure to the arts,” Potter said.

Potter has shared the stage with Luciano Pavarotti and sang professionally in Italy, France and Germany. He came to UCF when the opera program was just a class and has helped it grow to include 28 undergraduate and graduate level students by creating programs like the partnership with OCLS.

“It’s a very important step in bringing opera to our community with the absence of the Orlando Opera,” said Emmanuel Cadet, a tenor graduate student at UCF, who is the stage director for the first production at the library.

“It is really helping us build our program here, out at UCF,” he said.

The first event is on October 30 at 2 p.m. and will highlight the fall event “The Grand Knights of Singing — An Opera Gala” that UCF will perform in its performance hall on November 7, 12 and 14. Students will perform the second act of the opera “Die Fledermaus” by composer Johann Strauss. The opera, set in Vienna, is about guests at a ball who toast the joys of good life and dance until dawn.

Producing a gala show allows a lot of versatility, Potter said. It allows the opera program to be flexible with casting and use different characters from other operas opposed to being tied down to a certain script.

A typical performance would only require five to seven students. Potter said by choosing a gala show all 28 students can be involved; “it allows us to highlight different talents and let more students perform.”

Editor’s note: The reporter, Jerriann Sullivan, is a UCF journalism student. This story was originally published on, UCF Opera program partners with Orange County Libraries.