Opera is for Old People…

that is, if you count a 10-year-old amongst the elderly.

For the past 3 years, I have been working at Opera San Luis Obispo’s Opera Camp each summer. This year, I am the camp counselor and stage director. It’s a brilliant experience working with 23 8-15 year-olds who want to sing opera. That’s right! 8-15 year-old opera-lovers! Yes, sure, they love Miley Cyrus and the cast of High School Musical as well, but talk to one of them and they’ll explain to you why they love the Habanera from Carmen.

True, these groups of students may be few and far between, but that is only because someone once played them an aria or took them to a show and they fell in love. How can they fall in love with opera without having ever been introduced?

Yes, these students harbor stereotypes as well…… I am having the students keep a journal where they write what they learned each day and answer brief questions. The first question was “What is Opera?” 2 of the students wrote “Opera is…” and drew a picture of a lady with pigtails, horns, and a staff. However, the fact that an 8 year-old knows this stereotype at all is an amazement. The key is to use these stereotypes to broaden their knowledge of the art form. Show them a caricature of said Wagnerian soprano, then introduce them to a Violetta. Then Papageno, then Cenerentola, then  Porgy and Bess! Exploit the stereotype but then refute it!

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