Saturday, October 21, 2017

That Time the Opera Came to School


I have sung opera for my students since I began teaching elementary music. A poster from Pavarotti's concert in Boise hangs in my classroom. (I am asked if he is my dad and Jesus on a semi-regular basis.) Former students tell me the thing they remembered most about my class was when I would sing opera for them.

I'm not just joking around like Elmer Fudd and Bugs Bunny. (Confused Millennials, please Google What's Opera, Doc?) I have sung some opera in my day, even been paid for it. I guess that would make me a professional opera singer (but not really, ha ha!)

Susanna in The Marriage of Figaro, Carousel in Concert with Opera Idaho, Recital Time
Nowadays, I mostly stick to musical theater (the more classical musical, the better) and the occasional vocal recital.

When my principal told me Opera Idaho was scheduled to visit our school for the first time this year, I said, "Great!"

When she told me the kids at her previous school started laughing at first when the performers sang, I said, "Don't worry."

"I was mortified," she said.

"That won't happen here," I reassured her.

I was also given the task of preparing a student chorus to perform with the opera singers, so I assembled a crack team of fifth graders, and we rehearsed every week at lunch for the first month of school.

I made sure I prepared the students for the visitors by singing opera in my classes.

"We are NOT allowed to laugh at opera," the kids told one of our playground helpers.

"We are NOT allowed to try to sing like Mrs. Duggan. Our voices are NOT ready for it," the kids told the teachers.

One student cried when I sang because he said it was so beautiful.

By the time the opera visited our school, my students were neither scared of nor disgusted by opera. One of the performers happened to be a good friend of mine as well, and that ended up being a ton of fun for the students and for me.

When the opera singers asked the kids to raised their hands if they had ever seen an opera, the whole school raised their hands.

"Really?" the performer asked, a little taken aback.

(I mean, they hadn't really seen an opera, but they were letting him know they knew what was up.)

When the opera singer asked if they knew what to shout if they really liked something, the kids knew the answer: "Bravo!"

Oh yeah! That's what happens when your music teacher is an opera singer! Of course, I never got around to, "Brava" for a female or "Bravi" and "Brave," but the performers didn't ask about those.

When the program began, you could tell a few of the younger kids were working really hard to not "laugh," but all it took were a few dirty looks from the other kids sitting around them, and my school settled into being a very good audience.

My cute fifth grade chorus spent the entire production onstage with the opera singers. They also had a quick clinic with the performers fifteen minutes before the show, an invaluable experience, working with true professionals.

At the end, my chorus kids insisted they hadn't "met" the singers.

"You just spent a whole hour acting with them," I said, "and they worked with you beforehand."

"But we haven't met them yet," one girl said.

"Can't we at at least shake their hands?" another asked.

As my friend in the cast put it, "The answer is always, 'Yes!'"

So they did.



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