Berkshire Choral Festival
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High school: Opera

Thanks to everyone who responded to my initial request about opera in high
school. Specifically, if anyone had done Magic Flute or Street Scene in
HS.

Everyone who responded said that Magic Flute is too vocally demanding in
particular because of the Queen of the Night and Tamino (not to mention
Sarastro). Street Scene is also beyond the resources of a high school
environment.

One person did say that Gianni Schicchi by Puccini... is very
ensemble-oriented, a fantastic "comedia
dell'arte" piece, and well within the range of a GOOD high school soprano
and tenor.

Many people recommended Gilbert and Sullivan, in particular Pirates of
Penzance, as a positive and doable possibility for high school students.
Otherwise, stick to Musical Theatre?

Thanks again

Sally Braswell Murphy
Choral Teacher
Oak Bay Secondary
Victoria, BC
smbmurphy(a)shaw.ca
Here are a few other comments that have come in about my query about opera
in high school.


I have done Amahl and the Night Visitors with great success with high
school students. The solo parts
are very accessible and the ensemble singing involves the entire choir.
--
Charles Strouse's Nightengale (yes, he wrote Annie...don't hold that
against him) is a wonderful work for HS. He considers it his opera, I do
too.
----
Hello, I didn't see the original question but I wanted to add my two cents.
In the 1970's a High School in Iowa did the Marriage of Figaro, in English
with full orchestration. Dr. Les Hale cut it together, did his own
translation.. (very nice) and it works very well for advanced High School
singers. You still need all the strong roles, a convincing count and
countess, a nice pants role for voi che sapette (sp?) and of course a
comedic lead for Figaro. The chorus in the show is just as boring as in the
full length Opera, no new music was done, but Keys were changed to
facilitate High School Voices and Orchestra Players.

Other Operas in high School

I know of a few high schools who have done Amahl and the Night Visitors,
and the gilbert and sullivan pieces other than pirates; Yoeman of the
Guard, and The Mikado are both suitable and fun. Musical Theater on the
brainy side would leave you most of the Sondheim shows... I've even seen a
High School in Cedar Rapids Iowa do Sweeny Todd... a little risky, but very
operatic. Another solution to introducing opera to High Schoolers, but
keeping it vocally appropriate, would be the idea of Opera Scenes...
Pulling arias and ensembles for a theme or story line... Staging could be
elaborate or simple... pieces could be chosen for orchestration, and
keys... that is the hard part of chosing some pieces... most high school
orchestras need to be in the loop so that pieces will be full and parts
present... sometimes renting the scores for orchestras can be very
expensive....

Anyway... Hope this helps. Although if you do Musical Theater I would stay
away from Disney shows... A good friend of mine is doing Beauty and the
Beast in Omaha, and from what I hear it is just nuts dealing with the
Disney people.-
Thanks again,

Sally Braswell Murphy
Choral Teacher
Oak Bay Secondary
Victoria, BC
smbmurphy(a)shaw.ca
on May 23, 2005 10:00pm
Keep it up and don't get discouraged!

We've been staging at least one opera a year recently at our small high school of 350 students. Last year we did "Amahl and the Night Visitors" as well as "Pirates of Penzance". This year we took on Purcell's "The Fairy Queen" which ended up being a big success and a lot of fun. We needed to adapt "A Midsummer Night's Dream" to make the whole things sensible to our kids. A few years ago we started with Purcell's "Dido and Aeneas" a one-hour opera written for this age group.

Don't give up hope - although you may have a lot of key-changing or adapting to do, there is a huge repertoire that is far more satisfying than the standard musical theatre stuff that everybody else does. There may be times when you have to bring in one or two "pros" to do a role like the Queen of the Night. So what? The kids have a much higher experience for having been in "Die Zauberfl