Teaching Opera to Children
Thank you for your generous and detailed suggestions on Opera for
Children. All this information will go into my opera resource folder as I
work on the units for January!
I had a college student do an opera unit with first-graders, and she was
teaching them all sorts of operas. She taught them a little bit about how
to sing, and then explained how singing carries the story. The day I
observed, she was playing Micaela's aria from Carmen. She explained to
the kids how Micaela was singing about how she had to be strong, and how
she was alone outside on the mountain. The kids were very interested, and
seemed quite taken with how Micaela was expressing herself. . . .Also, I
know there's a reduced version of The Magic flute available somewhere,
for school productions. ~N.G.
The prep division of Manhattan School of Music has a tradition of doing a
children's opera every year. While my kids were there, they did Casey at
the Bat (William Schumann), Noye's Fludde (Britten), and the Three Trolls
(Peter Maxwell Davies). I'm sure if you called them, you could get the
whole list. Jane
the Utah Opera Company has an education dept. that does exactly what you
are talking about. Last summer they even ran a summer program in which
the students created their own opera. The contact person is Paula Fowler
and she is anxious to hear from you and assist in any way possible.
Apparently they have some type of notebook for children with opera (?).
Anyway, please call her at (801)736-4919 or e-mail at
She is a wonderful person. ~ R.S.
The Metropolitan Opera's Education division produces kits for teaching
opera to children - they are wonderfully valuable! You may contact them
through The Metropolitan Opera's website. ~ R.R.
My community children's chorus mounted an adaptation of Hansel and Gretel
two-year ago with orchestra that was successful. This spring we are going
to produce Gilbert &Sullivan's H.M.S.Pinafore. I have also done a really
simplified version of H & G with 2nd grade
classes at my school. If you'll be more specific with your request, I'd
be happy tp offer some sugestions. Keep those kids singing!! ~ Anne
Britten's Noah's Fludde....
Opera for children. Would suggest two by Benjamin Britten: Noye's Fludde
and the Little Sweep. As to "The Little Sweep," it was originally
preceded by a play, called "Lets make an opera." The plot of the play is
OK, but the dialogue is insufferably "British Schoolboy"style of the
1930's. So ditch the play. The opera is very good, and deals in some
heavy issues, in unentertaining way. Contains a stunning, short aria for
soprano, and a couple of wonderful comic roles. There is also an early
opera by Britten, "Paul Bunyan," but I don't know it.
Also Brudibar by Hans Krasa, a composer in the Terezin Concentration Camp
in WWII. His circumstances are terrible, but the opera is wonderful.
Needs a better English version, but the music and the ideas are strong.
Brooks Grantier, The Battle Creek Boychoir
Opera Funtime Books. They are available from Opera Guilds International
directly from The Young Patronesses of the Opera.
Call Sheri Swanson, 305-573-7770.These books include:
Abduction from the Seraglio, Aida, Barber of Seville, Carmen, Cristoforo
Colombo, Faust, Die Fledermaus, Hansel & Gretel, Idomeneo, La Boheme, La
Cenerentola, Madame Butterfly, Magic Flute, Otello, Pagliacci, Tales of
They were designed for Opera Education and present colorful activities
for learning about an opera. Cost is nominal.
Young Patronesses of the Opera, Inc.Florida Grand Opera1200 Coral Way
Miami, FL 33145-2980phone 305-854-1643fax 856-1042
or email OGI public relations, Carol Dominaalthaewa(a)ix.netcom.comThis is
an excellent resource for Opera Education in the schools."
The Magic Flute is always a good one for kids. Also, there is a modern
version of it that I heard on the radio once...but I don't know who does
it. It's about a girl whose mother plays the queen and she somehow her
daughter becomes part of the opera. ~ J.P
I wrote a grant to do Amahl several years ago. We did a full scale
production bringing in professional musicians for the major parts. My
school children played the part of the Shepherds. I know you're not
headed in that direction, but let me tell you of some supplementary
activities we did to enrich the experience.
1. The children made puppets of one of the major parts. We had a
makeshift 'puppet theatre' and they sang their choice of some of the
music (which I had previously taught) while operating their puppet.
2. They drew pictures of a few of the scenes.
3. Though they learned correct notes for some of Britten's pieces, I let
them 'create' phrases of their own in opera-style while singing through
certain other pages of the dialogue....to give them a feel for the
process of 'creating on the spot'.
4. We took pictures of them all costumed up (with make up...the works),
and created a scrapbook for each classroom which they loved to look at
throughout the year. It traveled with them as they moved thru the
elementary grades and came back to me when they all moved on to the
middle school arena. I'm pretty sure it has had a lasting effect on many
of them and when they hear it at Christmas time, they can sing along'
with many of the parts for the rest of their lives.
It's a huge undertaking....but well worth the effort youre making. I
commend you! Sandra B. Brown Ashland Symphonic Youth Chorus
Every summer I teach a three week marionette opera camp, and we have
mounted the following productions: "Magic Flute"; "Barber of Seville";
"Marriage of Figaro"; "Cosi Fan Tutte". ~ Nan Beth Walton,
Let me introduce myself. I am Oscar Escalada, choral director and
composer. Among other compositions I wrote one musical and one opera for
children. The opera is called "The chest of Sancho Panza" and it is the
story of Don Quixote told by Sancho Panza, his esquire, to a group of
children of his town. The name of the opera is taken from the first scene
where Sancho is looking into a chest at his home and finds a sword, a
helmet and some other elements that recalls him the days when he was at
Don Quixote's service. Many chapters - not all of them - are told in the
opera, and at the end, Cervantes wrote that D.Q. died. As it is for
children I prefer not to be so dramatic, so instead I used an invitation
that Sancho did to his master for not to leave them but to go with him to
look after Dulcinea. In that moment, a zenit light shows Dulcinea singing
an Ave Maria while D.Q. stands up from his bed and goes to her. The choir
starts to sing the same Ave Maria while D.Q. and Dulcinea are singing the
leit motiv of each other that appearedbefore during the opera, in a very
touching way. When the choir arrives to the Amen, both Dulcinea and D.Q.
comes into a book - in the back of the stage - that is going to be closed
by Sancho Panza with a reverence. In its cover you can read "Don Quixote
de la Mancha".The opera is written for three baritones (Sancho Panza,
Maese Pedro** and the Priest**), three tenors (Don Quixote, Mambrino* and
the secretary of the Priest*) and one soprano (Dulcinea).Children's
choir, puppets, children's ballet and small orchestra.* & **These tenors
and baritones could be the same singer, one tenor and one baritone. The
original language of the opera is Spanish. I did an English translation.
Unfortunately my English is not good enough to write a singing English
version. However, it could be possible that you do it helped with the
translation I did. This opera has been performed eighteen times in
Argentina with great success. It will be performed in Israel and in
Holland as well. Perhaps may be also in US?
One of the beautiful opera stuff for children is the trio part of
Mozart's Magic flute. the one isn't with Pamina. This very good for
children, if I know something Else I'll write you.
Another good one is Smetana's The Bartered Bride. ~ S.W