Normandy, MO  -- A one-act opera written and performed by Normandy Schools Collaborative (NSC) students will premiere on November 29 in a unique partnership with Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, and the E. Desmond Lee Fine Arts Education Collaborative at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. The Big Bad Day is an original piece based on the book The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka.

Based on the national curriculum Music! Words! Opera!, teaching artist Valerie Smith is leading students through the creative process of writing a libretto and setting the words to music. In early September, Smith began meeting weekly with NSC Fine Arts Director Suzanne Palmer’s third-grade students at Jefferson School.

“This opportunity to create a libretto is a welcomed creative writing experience for our young scholars,” said Palmer.  “When I was approached by Opera Theatre of Saint Louis to do this project with them, I thought this experience of singing, acting, and performing combined with an emphasis on scholastic growth is exactly what I want for students of all ages in Normandy.”

Once the words were written, Smith set them to music using input from students. The music was then shared with local composer/orchestrator Terrence Abernathy who scored the music for strings and select wind instruments. This unique project allows students the opportunity to create an original opera and perform the work in a professional theater along with world-class musicians from the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra.

Marie-Hélène Bernard, President and CEO of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, said, “These students have truly harnessed the power of music to express their thoughts, and we celebrate their hard work and creativity. The SLSO is excited and honored to be part of this collaboration to help spotlight their original work in this performance that will make our community proud.”

Among the instrumentalists are seven musicians from the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, who will be joined by student performers from Normandy High School. Select student singers from Barack Obama, Bel-Nor, Lucas Crossing, and Washington Schools will also participate in singing chorus roles in the opera. Normandy visual arts teachers are coordinating sets, props, and costumes.

“OTSL is incredibly proud of these students and their fantastic efforts,” said Andrew Jorgensen, General Director of Opera Theatre of Saint Louis. “They’ve discovered and experienced the beauty of opera and what impact music can make in our lives. Their work creating their very own production is nothing short of inspirational. We’re grateful to be involved in such an important project and can’t wait for audiences to hear their opera.”

Michael Smith, the E. Desmond Lee Endowed Professor of Music Education and director of the Des Lee Fine Arts Education Collaborative, applauded the unique collaboration.

“This is such an exciting project for the Des Lee Fine Arts Collaborative,” he said. “It is a perfect example of the wonderful opportunities that can be created when our community comes together to share all of our varying resources and talents.”

The Big Bad Day will be performed for a community audience on Tuesday, November 29, at 7 p.m. in the Anheuser-Busch Theater at the Touhill Performing Arts Center on the University of Missouri-St. Louis campus. Admission is free, and no reservations are required. However, audience members are invited to contribute to the Normandy Schools Collaborative Fine Arts Programs.

Media Contact: Kate Springer, Communications Specialist, Normandy Schools Collaborative, 314.745.3273.

About Normandy Schools Collaborative: Founded in 1894, The Normandy Schools Collaborative is a family of educators, administrators, support staff, community members, and parents committed to providing a high-quality education to each of the more than 2.900 students enrolled in our schools. Our mission is to prepare global leaders for college, career, and productive citizenship by empowering a community of confident learners and valuing the unique contributions of every student.

About the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra: Celebrated as a leading American orchestra, the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra is the second-oldest orchestra in the country, marking its 143rd year with the 2022/2023 season and its fourth with Music Director Stéphane Denève. The SLSO maintains its commitment to artistic excellence, educational impact, and community collaborations, honoring its mission of enriching lives through the power of music.

The SLSO serves as a convener of individuals, creators, and ideas, and is committed to building community through compelling and inclusive musical experiences. As it continues its longstanding focus on equity, diversity, inclusion, and access, the SLSO embraces its strengths as a responsive, nimble organization, while investing in partnerships locally and elevating its presence globally. For more information, visit

About the E. Desmond Lee Fine Arts Education Collaborative: The E. Desmond Lee Fine Arts Education Collaborative seeks to develop and expand the national model for collaborative efforts that serve the advancement of fine arts education through broad, collective impact structures and building collaborative systems throughout the St. Louis community.

About Opera Theatre of Saint Louis: Opera Theatre of Saint Louis is a spring festival featuring casts of the opera world’s most exciting singers accompanied by the acclaimed St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. Each season, OTSL presents four inventive new productions in English during the months of May and June. In addition to presenting innovative interpretations of classics, OTSL is also committed to premiering new and relevant operas by prominent composers; since its inaugural season in 1976, 33 operas have premiered at Opera Theatre. Opera Theatre’s competitive young artist programs foster the next generation of emerging singers; these programs have been a springboard for countless artists to launch international careers. OTSL is led by General Director Andrew Jorgensen and Artistic Director James Robinson in collaboration with Artistic Director of Young Artist Programs Patricia Racette and Principal Conductor Daniela Candillari.

Opera Theatre of Saint Louis is funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, Missouri Arts Council, Regional Arts Commission, and the Arts and Education Council. Opera Theatre gratefully acknowledges Webster University for its sustaining partnership.