Opera America to Honor Teacher Fired for Playing Faust

Classic Arts News   Opera America to Honor Teacher Fired for Playing Faust
The Opera America conference, which opens today in Seattle, will include an appearance by Tresa Waggoner, the Colorado teacher who came under fire for playing a video of Gounod's Faust for her students this year.

Waggoner was criticized by parents in Bennett, Colorado, for playing a portion of Who's Afraid of Opera, an educational series that featured soprano Joan Sutherland and a cast of sock puppets. Some parents said that the video had traumatized their children, while others objected to the depiction of the devil in Faust. Because Wagonner explained the concept of the trouser role to her students, some parents suggested that she was a lesbian.

Waggoner was placed on administrative leave, and eventually left Bennett after it became clear that she was not going to be offered the chance to return to her teaching duties.

She will be honored during the closing session of the conference, on May 6, "as an advocate for opera in schools and for upholding her ethics in the face of adversity."

Peter Russell, the general director of Opera Colorado, said in a statement. "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.

The conference, which takes place at the Westin Seattle Hotel, focuses on the theme of "connectivity." It will include performances of new works and sessions on using technology to reach new audiences and donors, as well as discussions of artistic training, development, education, finance, public relations, and other issues.

Peter Gelb, the incoming general manager of the Metropolitan Opera, will deliver the keynote address on the morning of May 4, speaking about his plans for the company and the technological innovations he plans to introduce.

In keeping with the theme, Gelb's keynote address will be available for viewing over the Opera America web site. The site will also include blogs by participants and audio downloads from conference sessions.

Opera America is a national service organization representing about 350 companies and other opera-related organizations.

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