Opera and aliens teach kids about music.
This past Halloween morning was a time of wild anticipation as more than 3,300 students poured out of yellow buses into the Pikes Peak Center. For what? Opera?
For all the cynical types out there, we offer a quick story to reclaim your faith in the power of the arts. And to challenge some long-held beliefs about opera. The old images of cartoonish Wagnerian sopranos (complete with helmet and spear) are long, long gone. Today’s opera is a powerful combination of music and drama, propelling audiences into vivid stories and inviting them to view our world differently.
Philharmonic associate conductor Thomas Wilson and Colorado Springs Conservatory founder Linda Weise began their planning some 12 months ago. Their vision was to introduce children to the world of opera. “We knew it had to be relevant and contemporary,” said Wilson, “part of our challenge was to blow away any misperceptions they have about this amazing art form.”
Their planning led to composer Gian Carlo Menotti and his alien fantasy Help, Help the Globolinks! A perfect fit for a Halloween crowd, the mini-opera tells the story of planet earth beset by hordes of alien invaders. Only the sound of music can put a stop to their terrible (and hilarious) invasion.
The right preparation is a crucial feature of Philharmonic Kids. Thirteen volunteer docents were deployed to classrooms throughout the region to introduce the storyline, the instrument families of the orchestra, and the basics of concert attendance. Teachers tell us that docent visits make all the difference in preparing their students to enjoy their first Philharmonic performance.
Meanwhile, in rehearsals, Wilson and Weise took a hands-on approach to preparing the vocalists and actors. Menotti’s music is notoriously complex, requiring intensive coaching at all levels to prepare it for the stage. “There were late nights and early mornings,” said Weise. “But Conservatory students are trained to adapt quickly to unfamiliar territory. There’s never an ordinary moment for our kids, so new works are almost second nature to them.”
The preparation pays off (and the fun begins) just two nights before the performance. Two rehearsals might not sound like much, but with massively gifted musicians working with expert leadership, … well, they make it look easy!
It takes key partnerships with educators, musicians, and generous donors to make Philharmonic Kids a reality. It’s not a gift to these students—it’s an investment in the next generation of creative, ready-for-anything leaders. As an expression of the Philharmonic’s mission, it will always be a privilege to perform for the youngest listeners in our community.
The next Philharmonic Kids performance, JumpinJazz Kids—A Swinging Jungle Tale, takes place on May 8, 2013.
Philharmonic Kids is generously sponsored by
- T. Rowe Price Foundation
With special thanks to participating employee volunteers.
- Kirkpatrick Family Fund
- LexisNexis Cares Board
- The P. Bruce and Virginia C. Benson Foundation