In the news: Princeton’s OPERAnauts partners with MCCC students

In the news: Princeton’s OPERAnauts partners with MCCC students

(Mercer Community) On May 7, the student teams presented their final work before a panel of judges including Bechtler, Dana Lichtstrahl, whose company, Naked Insights, leads group and individual trainings, and Ken Greenberg, of HG-Media, a digital marketing communications company. The judges were clearly impressed with the results. “It was not easy to judge when everything was so good,” Bechtler told the students following their presentations. “It’s very touching to me how you picked up on the ideas we are trying to convey. We appreciate your time and creativity, and for taking this project to heart.”   Read more. . . 

Behind the Curtain: Kendrick Lamar – His voice like an operatic recitative

Driving Black Panther’s story forward is a hard-hitting soundtrack from Kendrick Lamar. Through collaborations with both established rappers (2 Chainz, Travis Scott) and up-and-comers (SOB X RBE, Saudi), Compton rapper Lamar spreads a message both of black power and of cultural inclusivity. “King of the past, present, future, my ancestors watchin’,” Lamar raps on the album’s title track.

Praising both himself and his people, Lamar writes that not just that there will one day be a black future, but that blackness always was and ever shall be. Equality is not a new concept, and strong role models were always present. Likewise, Black Panther is a mainstream film that finally offers a chance for African-Americans to celebrate their heritage without being judged for it. This is not a film made for white people that African-American viewers can also take part in. Instead, the tables are turned and black audiences are the tastemakers.

But Black Panther is not just a film about black rights. It’s about equal rights. It encourages audiences — regardless of race or age or gender — to go out and be the change they want to see. Ghandi would be proud.

Lamar goes on in the same song to rap about the people who change the world, his voice like an operatic recitative, carrying his lesson across in constant, hammering intensity. “King of the optimistics and dreamers that go and get it,” declaring himself the leader of a generation of doers. His people are not a nameless, faceless conglomerate, but a diverse collection of creators and thinkers who aim high and move with purpose. And this is the key message Black Panther aims to get across: if you take away nothing else, know that you need to work hard and work together to accomplish anything.

Seems simple enough to me.

By: Niccolo Bechtler, editor Behind the Curtain: a quarterly update
Link to The Blank Panther movie trailer:
Behind the Curtain: an interview with Craig Levesque

Behind the Curtain: an interview with Craig Levesque

From my perch on the third step of the amphitheatre in Pettoranello Gardens, Dr. Craig Levesque appears exactly as I imagined, walking up from behind the warping wooden stage to meet me. The afternoon has clouded over, leaving perfect conditions for the cameras, and the never ending slough of passing Jersey traffic has quieted to a conducive interview volume. Dr. Levesque introduces himself, and we sit down to begin what I fear will become a forced conversation, the onlooking tripods trampling our chances of exchanging something meaningful. But, as I soon discover, the interview — and Dr. Craig Levesque — are full of surprises.

In his casual dress shirt tucked into khakis, Dr. Levesque is not a picture of the academic esoteric, and though he teaches composition at Westminster Conservatory, he acts much more like a student of music than a professor. Having introduced himself as “Craig” when we first met, I had no idea he even had a doctorate until he used his title in describing himself to the cameras, and even then it was only on the second take, like an afterthought. His speech is approachably intelligent, far from pretentious, and he possesses the unique gifts of a master explainer. This is a man who could condense all of particle physics into a single sentence if he wanted to, and you would walk away from hearing it feeling more enlightened than you ever would leaving a college lecture.

Growing up, Dr. Levesque explains, his interests were more in playing music than in composing it. In his high school band, he showed talent and dedication as a French horn player, finding himself drawn more and more deeply to music as he progressed through his four years there. “I was very lucky in that I was in a place that had a strong music program, and I had a very supportive teacher who saw my interest and helped guide it,” he says, referencing the band instructor who first pointed him toward composition. “It was the only place in school were I really felt I was really successful,” he explains, which led him to spend more time in the program, which led to his being more successful and caused his teacher to take note. “When he saw my interest, he gave me more and more opportunities,” he tells me of his teacher, which began the young Dr. Levesque’s first forays into composition. “The more that I did this, the more I realized that it was something I really liked to do.”

His love of music never faltered, and he went on to pursue a B.A. in theory and composition from the University of New Hampshire and, just for good measure, topped it all off with a Rutgers Ph.D. He has been playing, composing, and arranging ever since, to great success and critical acclaim, not to mention the many instructional hats atop his head at several New Jersey universities. With such an impressive resume and a prodigious talent for arranging, Dr. Levesque was the natural choice to score OPERAnauts’ ingeniously portable La Petite Carmen, a collaboration to which he enthusiastically agreed. He set to work on the score, and OPERAnauts on the production, forging a productive artistic pairing until, at last, La Petite Carmen was ready to debut. And the rest is proverbial history.

by Niccolo Bechtler

Hot Dog! OPERAnauts Fundraising Meal at Tower Dogs

Hot Dog! OPERAnauts Fundraising Meal at Tower Dogs

Why we’re Raising. . .

OPERAnauts is a passionate reply to help young people use opera for social change. To engage, teach and inspire through the power of opera. OPERAnauts is a nonprofit organization using music as a social change agent to reverse the cycle of violence and poverty for people in Congo.

Click here to r.s.v.p.

Come eat with us and support the cause!

When you purchase your meal mention OPERAnauts’ name and follow the restaurant’s instructions to receive 20% of your meal’s price donated back to OPERAnauts, Inc.

Instructions to r.s.v.p.

  1. Enter the number of friends and family in your party, then click the “Purchase” button.
  2. Add a donation to your r.s.v.p, and click the “Checkout” button. (THANK YOU!)
  3. Fill-in your first, last name and email address.

Where we’re eating. . .

Tower Dogs

Friday, May 12, 2017

11:00 AM-9:00 PM

4110 Quakerbridge Road,

Lawrenceville, NJ 08648 (near the Quakerbridge mall)


Does Tower Dogs have other things to eat besides hot dogs?

YES. Hamburgers, salads, french fries and more can be found on their website here:

What is the goal?


What does my contribution do?

Your contribution gives 10 Soloist Scholarships to choristers in Congo. Selected singers will received voice lessons and learn to sing a solo aria. The name of this pilot program is L’Aria Conservatoire and will take place in Kinshasa, Congo, Africa.

Click this: Come eat with us and support the cause! to r.s.v.p. and DONATE 


Painting Party Fundraiser

Painting Party Fundraiser


Thank you for coming and painting for OPERAnauts’ opera music work in Congo!And, a special thanks to the artists! And, thanks to Diane Forer, teaching artist, for preparing such a joyful subject to paint – a musical scene in a Congolese village, and for creating such a wonderful event.

Here are some of the comments about the event:

My ultimate goal is to have each artist go home with a new appreciation of their talent and…a painting they might choose to hang! I think that happened at your party and so….I’m happy! ~ Diane Forer
Thanks for organizing it Joy. I had a great time. Wishing you and family a very happy, healthy and prosperous new year. ~ Sanjana Raturi

I’m glad the painting party raised some finds for operanauts! It was a lot of fun. The amusing thing is that our son was so impressed with our paintings! He couldn’t believe we painted them! Happy New Year! ~ Sally and Mike Zarnstorff

The results are in – we received $450. With your generous donations, an in-kind donation, donated supplies and refreshments, 100% of this amount can go to help young musicians and choristers in Congo get the music scores they need to learn, and provide resources for teaching artists to hone their craft.

Thank you so much for your continuing support of OPERAnauts.

You are helping to solve the problem of the cycle of violence-poverty in Congo with music, note by note.