Opera Singers Hit High Notes With LA Juvenile Hall-Inspired Poetry

LOS ANGELES (CBS) — The stirring notes of classical opera were heard inside the walls of an unusual venue on Friday : a Southland juvenile detention facility.

KNX 1070’s Pete Demetriou reports while the singers and music came from outside the walls, the lyrics came from those who have served time inside.

Los Angeles Opera baritone/composer Eli Villanueva, mezzo soprano Nandani Sinha, baritone LeRoy Villanueva and pianist Daniel Faltus performed at Central Juvenile Hall as part of a program that brings artists to the facility to give surprise performances of poems written by the minors.

Those minors did not know their poems secretly chosen by the musicians and arranged into separate classical music pieces until the actual performances.

Villanueva sang “Free At Last”, an original composition set to lyrics written by Alton Petrie, who until recently was inside Juvenile Hall.

Petrie was among a group called Inside/Outside Writers that educates young people on how to become songwriters, poets, screenwriters, and other disciplines.

The performance may have even inspired Petrie to change his focus and how he sees his future as a songwriter.

“I would have thought of hip hop or R&B or something, but never in one day would I have thought opera,” he said.

Each minor whose poetry was chosen as a performance received the sheet music of their poem signed by the performers.

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