Photo: North Carolina Opera

Why are they singing so loud? Why are they wearing weird costumes? Why is it in a foreign language? Why does she have horns on her head?

North Carolina Opera’s “Opera Out of the Box,” does more than answer those questions — the 45-minute interactive presentation introduces students to the genre’s “greatest hits” and explains opera history and mechanics along the way. 

Centra Carolina Community College will host a performance of Opera Out of the Box at 10 a.m. on Nov. 13 at the Dennis A. Wicker Civic Center in Sanford. Open and free to the public, the program is part of CCCC’s Academic and Cultural Enrichment Series (ACES), which addresses the barriers many face that prevent them from participation in the arts and cultural exploration.

Bringing North Carolina’s premiere professional opera company to Sanford allows students and citizens a chance to experience a classic art form (and one that may be new to many), according to Bianka Stumpf, the social sciences lead instructor at CCCC who launched ACES in 2015 and earned national recognition for the program in February this year. 

“From my 20-year tenure at CCCC, I know firsthand many people face barriers [in arts], including financial hardships, limited access to transportation, and scheduling around work, school and childcare,” Stumpf said. “These special opportunities are the ones that shape a student’s education and are remembered long past a lecture or exam. For our community members, it’s a chance to be served well by its local college and remain learners themselves.”

Opera Out of the Box includes performances from Carmen, The Magic Flute, Rigoletto, La Traviata and other well-known operas. The performers pull simple costume pieces and props out of a box to help illustrate their characters; for example, the soprano is represented by a boa, and the mezzo by a hat and tie. Using MadLibs, students can “compose” a scene to learn about recitative or the opera dialogue. The program concludes with “Is it Opera?” a quiz in which the singers present famous tunes often heard in commercial media.

Since 2015, ACES has provided more than 30,000 students and citizens free programming, including professional theater and music performances, scholarly lectures, creative writing/poetry readings and workshops and art and museum installations. ACES has received local, state and federal arts and humanities grants.

For large group reservations or to learn more about Opera Out of the Box and CCCC’s ACES program, email Stumpf at