The children's book, "Shoes for the Santo Niño" goes from printed page to stage when Peggy Pond Church's 1930s era book comes to life.

Four performances are scheduled at the National Hispanic Cultural Center (NHCC): the world premiere, on Friday, Dec. 16 at 7 p.m., followed by performances on Saturday, Dec. 17 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., and Sunday, Dec. 18 at 2 p.m. Santa Fe performances are set at the Lensic Performing Arts Center. The first is on Friday, Jan. 6 at 1 p.m. in honor of the 100th anniversary of New Mexico's statehood to be celebrated that day. Subsequent performances are scheduled Saturday, Jan. 7 at 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.

NHCC and the Lensic are presenting partners for the project. Most parts will be performed by singers in the UNM Children's Chorus, with adult roles played by UNM voice students. "This will be the first time the Children's Chorus gets to perform a real opera," said Regina Carlow, Children's Chorus director.

The 35 minute work to be conducted by Bradley Ellingboe, calls for two adult soloists, three children, a chamber orchestra, and UNM Children's Chorus, prepared by Carlow and Julia Church Hoffman. The project is part of a new initiative by The Santa Fe Opera to present important musical works that families can enjoy together.

Two-time Tony award winner Brian J. Bustos, a UNM alum, and part time Santa Fe Opera designer, is the production designer. Kathleen Clawson is stage director.

This joyous piece, commissioned by the UNM Department of Music in the College of Fine Arts to commemorate 100 years of chorus at UNM, depicts the important role of the Santo Niño de Atocha as part of the traditional cultural fabric of northern New Mexico in both Hispanic and Native American families. The tale is of Julianita and the Santo Niño – the Santo is known as an advocate for healing, primarily of children, and many believe that he wears the shoes left by pilgrims who visit his shrines to walk abroad and heal sick children while they sleep.

Peggy Pond Church was a writer and poet inspired by her love of northern New Mexico. In Hispanic and Native American traditions, people pray to the Santo Niño for healing and pilgrims leave children's shoes at his shrines. "Shoes for the Santo Niño" tells the story of Julianita, a daughter of a large family who brings shoes to the shrine and finds the Santo Niño awake.

Church Hoffman rediscovered her grandmother's book and shared it with Carlow, her UNM colleague. Both thought it would make a great children's opera.

Internationally-renowned composer Stephen Paulus was commissioned "for the beautiful way he writes for children's voices" and for his love of New Mexico, Carlow said. The libretto was written by Andrea Walters, director of education and community programs for the Santa Fe Opera.

Carlow said this is the first major collaboration between the Children's Chorus and the Santa Fe Opera, which also provided production support. They previously worked together on summer opera camps and a 30-minute improvised opera.

Bradley Ellingboe, music and choral director, said that the National Hispanic Cultural Center plans to run Shoes in rotation with Nutcracker and the Messiah. "They are full partners in this project. They have generously provided rehearsal space free of charge," Ellingboe said.

Media Contact: Carolyn Gonzales (505) 277-5920; e-mail: