Monday, December 5, 2011

Read along, sing a song!

Happy Monday, everyone!  Today I am going to continue on the subject of introducing opera to children.  Over the weekend, I took my boys to a program at the public library, put on by Florida Grand Opera, that promotes literacy through the arts.  The program, called "Read Along, Sing a Song", combines reading with song and dance, using music and movement to bring the story to life.
We got to the library a little early, and the kids passed the time by playing on the computers.  (Remember the days when people went to the library to read?)  When everything was set up, we went into the multipurpose room, and all the children congregated on the floor in the front row.  The program began with a brief introduction to opera.  While almost everyone there knew roughly what opera is, very few of them had ever experienced it before.  So they got their first taste from soprano Kyaunnee Richardson, who sang the Doll Song from The Tales of Hoffmann.  She invited the children from the audience to come up and press buttons on her dress and pull her finger (it's not as bad as it sounds) to make her move.  I appologize for the poor video quality, but I was having camera issues (like having my husband do the filming).


video

The aria was very well received, and the children discussed the different things the doll did while she sang, noting that sometimes she needed to be wound back up.  Then they all formed a circle, did some movement exercises, and experimented with an accordion.  Then it was storytime.  They read The Nutcracker and discussed their favorite parts.  (Most said they liked the part about going to the Land of Sweets.)  Then they broke out the hats, put on the music, and the fun really began.  They performed the Spanish, Arabian, Chinese, and Russian dances, some of them timidly and others with reckless enthusiasm.  Again, appologies for the video quality.


video

At the end of the program, each child was given his or her choice of an opera activity book.  They were also given the opportunity to sign up for supernumerary auditions, for those moments when a non-singing, non-speaking child is needed.  Naturally, my older son was first in line, throwing his fist in the air and shouting, "I'm in!" at the first mention of a chance to actually be in an opera.  My four-year-old wanted to be in one, too, but he was expecting to be able to sing Ferrando from Il Trovatore.  I only hope he's not too disappointed when he finds out he'll have to wait a few years for that, at least until his voice changes.


Anyway, the children all seemed to have a wonderful time, and it was apparent that a couple of them were particularly affected by the program.  They seemed genuinely excited about opera, and were eager for more.  And the good news is that, throughout the remainder of the season, there will be many more opportunities for these and other children in Broward and Miami-Dade counties to participate in these wonderful events.  So whether the child in your life already knows and loves opera, or has never heard a note of it, I highly recommend attending one of these programs.  You never know what it could lead to!

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