Ryan Chartrand

In society, opera is viewed as a high-class activity, complete with orchestras, highly-trained singers, actors and elaborate sets. This Friday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m., students have the chance to go see the famous opera “Hansel and Gretel” for only $10, put on by the Pacific Repertory Opera at the Performing Arts Center.

To go along with the performance, there will be a gingerbread house contest. The houses must be turned into the PAC Lobby between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. on Wednesday. It is open to anyone and free to enter.

“The reason we did a gingerbread contest was because Hansel and Gretel go to one in the forest,” said Carolyn Mason, 41, marketing associate for Pacific Repertory Opera.

The contest is not just for fun, though. There will be a silent auction during the two performances and all the proceeds will go to the San Luis Obispo County Child Abuse Prevention Council and the Pacific Repertory Opera’s youth education programs.

“There will be prizes for each category of gingerbread house: child, adult and professional,” Mason said.

Hansel and Gretel is a classic tale of two children who go into the forest and meet an evil witch. In the original play by Engelbert Humperdinck, the father marries a woman who sends the children away because they have no money.

“The original underlying story is kind of creepy,” Mason said. “This opera is much different.”

Even though opera has always had a high reputation, it “doesn’t need to be stuffy,” Mason said. “Opera is the world’s first original multimedia art form.”

The Central Coast Children’s Choir is also coming to perform as the gingerbread children, Mason said.

The company is a small one that brings in talent from all over.

“The actors for this show are coming from Los Angeles and San Francisco specifically,” said Mikele Hushing-Kline, administrative director for the Pacific Repertory Opera.

The company also put on concerts and a ball once a year.

“It is a little pricey, but it’s very fun, Hushing-Kline said.

The Pacific Repertory Opera is also giving away a $500 vocal arts scholarship this year for both high school and college students.

For all companies in America, 50 percent of the money for their shows comes from donors, Hushing-Kline said. “The donors are our lifeblood.”

Why go to the opera? “There is no microphone in opera,” Hushing-Kline said. “What you hear is what you get.”

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