Mozart wrote his first complete opera, "La finta semplice," when he was 12.
A group of talented students from Elgin Area School District U-46 are giving Mozart a run for his money.
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About 50 students ages 10 to 13 have written an opera, "Evil/Live," that they will perform at Elgin Community College's Blizzard Theatre on Saturday, July 16.
"Evil/Live" is the 11th annual opera composed and staged by students in the district through SCORE! (Students Creating Opera to Reinforce Education.)
SCORE! is a project of Hamilton Wings, a nonprofit that provides arts enrichment opportunities for local students.
The opera is set in medieval times. It involves a princess and a queen, war and devastation, redemption and mystery.
"We wanted to show how good characters and evil characters are not always straightforward," said Hanna Brown, 14, who helped develop the story. "The inner conflict is important in this."
Students began learning the elements of opera -- song, story, lyrics, choreography, set design -- in October. Small groups of students worked on each element of the production throughout the school year. At the beginning of summer, students auditioned for roles; they are now in the middle of an intense two weeks of rehearsals.
The purpose of SCORE! is to expose students from diverse racial and economic backgrounds to the arts and reinforce the values that will help them excel in school and in life.
"The key element is reinforcing education ... giving them that positive experience of being able to contribute to a large group, seeing a large project come to fruition," said Deanna Cates, director of operations and programs for Hamilton Wings. "It's the student growth that occurs from October to now that is the whole purpose of the program."
Shy students in particular are encouraged to share their ideas and contribute to the development and performance of the show.
"They're not scared. They're more open. They're showing their creative sides," said Wendy Madrigal, 13, who worked on the choreography and music.
Many students are attracted to Score because of their interest in music and end up discovering talents they didn't know they had.
"It shows you that you're a better person inside than you originally thought about yourself," said Manny Minor, 12, who worked on music and art design.
Tickets to "Evil/Live" are $10. They are available at the Visual and Performing Arts Center box office, 1700 Spartan Drive, Elgin or online at tickets.elgin.edu.