First-of-its-kind Florentine Opera show performed at Sign Language School

MILWAUKEE — The Florentine Opera Company put on a first-of-its-kind performance Tuesday at Milwaukee Public Schools’ Milwaukee Sign Language School.

Performers were joined on stage by MSLS sign-language interpreters as they presented the story of the Three Little Pigs.

The school serves students with severe hearing impairments, students with some hearing loss and students with typical hearing who learn sign language.

MSLS Principal Taimi Parey said the experience exposed students to music, culture and a familiar story in a unique way.

“Some of our children can hear vibrations, some of our children can feel vibrations and they watched a musical performance where the interpreters have to sign the singing portions of it,” she said.

Florentine Opera Company performers and Milwaukee Sign Language interpreters present the Three Little Pigs

Florentine Opera Company performers and Milwaukee Sign Language interpreters present the Three Little Pigs

Florentine General Director William Florescu said making opera more inviting and accessible to students has been his goal and at the forefront of the company’s educational department.

“Through the generous support of contributors including the Herzfeld Foundation, the Florentine has been able to provide an innovative outreach/performance experience that utilizes music, theatre and voice as learning tools for thousands of MPS students while exposing many of them to the opera art-form for the very first time,” Florescu said.

The opera company’s education and outreach coordinator, Sarah Lewis Jones, said the outreach program at the school has proven to be first-of-its-kind for the Florentine. “A dedicated joint effort by Principal Taimi Parey and Milwaukee Sign Language School educators, along with the Education Department of the Florentine Opera, has allowed this very important experience to occur for many children that may otherwise never experience opera,” she said.

“It truly has been my pleasure to work with the students, staff and teachers at the Milwaukee Sign Language School. In the time that I have spent with the pre-K through 4th-grade classes, it is clear to me that the faculty and staff of MSLS are highly motivated to meet and exceed the needs of its students. I am very impressed by the care and attention given to this experience. Together we have adjusted this outreach program to help meet the needs of MSLS participants with hearing impairment by making performance modifications and adding singing for the children … This has been a phenomenal first year for the Florentine’s partnership with MSLS and we hope to see it continue for many years.”

MPS Superintendent Gregory Thornton expressed gratitude to the Florentine and all of the district’s community partners for getting involved in making our children’s lives better.