Sunday, November 25, 2012

Introducing my Kiddos to Opera

The child we seek holds the seas and the winds on his palm,
The child we seek has the moon and stars at his feet.
Before him, the eagle is gentle the lion is meek.

Choirs of angels hover over his roof and sing him to sleep.
He's warmed by breath.
He's fed by a mother who is both virgin and queen.
Incense, myrrh, and gold we bring to his side, and the eastern star is our guide.

 (from Amahl and the Night Visitors, Gian Carlo Menotti)

culture...  2. n. a quality of enlightenment or refinement arising from an acquaintance with and concern for what is regarded as excellent in the arts, letters, manners, etc..
(Thank you, Random House Webster's College Dictionary.)

Kids deserve culture, but they don't get it through osmosis.  So I do things like take mine to the opera.  I got to go to a lot of operas when I was growing up.  More than once, my parents took my siblings and me to see the Christmas opera Amahl and the Night Visitors, by Gian Carlo Menotti.  (And, what's this?  My mom just told me today that my Great Uncle Eddie knew Menotti when he lived in New York.  So, I have, like, one degree of separation from the composer. I'm kind of famous. Or not.)  When I heard of a local performance of Amahl last year, I jumped on it.  "Ok, kids!  We're studying an opera!"

In my opinion, Amahl and the Night Visitors is the perfect opera for any child's "first opera."  It is short (about an hour).  It is in English.  The lead character is a child.  It has elements of the Christmas story that kids are familiar with:  the "Night Visitors" are in fact, the Three Wise Men who are traveling to see a newborn King.  It does not skimp on the message of the newborn Savior and salvation.  Parts of it are humorous.  Much of it is touching.  Perfect. 

(Here is a good synopsis  from Wikipedia.  And here is  a lovely passage by Menotti himself about how he conceived of the idea for the opera.)

I wanted my sons to really understand and appreciate what they were seeing when we went to see Amahl for the first time.  I wanted what happened on stage to look and sound familiar to them, to hold their attention because they already loved the story and characters.  In the weeks before the performance we read this lovely storybook adaptation (available through our library) ...

as well as this one ...

Then we re-read the first picture book and stopped periodically to listen to the corresponding portions of the opera from this recording...

The performance was wonderful (despite the box office employee who told me she didn't really think four -year-olds should be attending an opera...  Bah!  We showed her.)  The boys were blessedly  well-behaved and they loved the opera.  They knew when their favorite parts were coming and would smile and nudge me when they witnessed them unfold on stage.  We got to sit in seats near the aisle - the regal kings passed right by us on their journey!  The head of the kings' camel even fell off at the end of the performance - a prop malfunction for sure, but humorous and memorable for us!

And we went again today!  It was very last minute, and I did not get to do the same intentional preparation I try do for stuff like this.  It actually happened something like this:  "What!  The last show of Amahl is today???  Quick, buy the tickets!  Use the toilet!  Put on some socks!  Get in the car!  Move it, move it, move it."  Thanks to my amazing mother who went with the kids and me, we pulled it off.  Oh, and best of all, this year my little girl  joined her brothers and got to go her first opera!  (She's not yet three... Don't tell the box office lady!)  

The child we seek doesn't need our gold. 
On love, on love alone he will build his kingdom. 

His pierced hand will hold no scepter. 
His haloed head will wear no crown. 

His might will not be built on your toil. 

Swifter than lightning, he will soon walk among us. 

He will bring us new life, and receive our debts...

(from Amahl and the Night Visitors, Gian Carlo Menotti)

No comments:

Post a Comment

Like the old song says, "comments are a girl's best friend." Or something like that... So... leave a comment! I love chatting here! Pretend you're on my back porch, kick the broken plastic sandbox toys aside, sip your iced coffee, or beer, or (__fill in the blank with your beverage of choice__) and let's talk about all the things, because back-porch blogging is what I do!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...