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JaneE

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Reply with quote  #1 
I am thinking about taking my kids to a Metropolitan HD Live Opera broadcast.  They are shown at a movie theatre near me.  However, I do not know much about opera.  Which of the following productions would be best for students? 

Current Season:
The Magic Flute
Les Pêcheurs de Perles
Turandot
Manon Lescaut
Madame Butterfly
Roberto Devereux
Electra

Do you think an 11-year-old would be too young for to enjoy it?  Do you have any ideas on how to prepare my kids for what they will see?  I want the kids to have a good experience so that they will want to go again!

Thanks for your help!

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Professor Carol

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Reply with quote  #2 
Of the ones you listed, I would suggest that all but perhaps Manon and Electra would work well for younger kids. There's not too much actual action in Manon (but gorgeous music).  Elektra could go quite well with those older ones studying Classical Mythology. (I haven't seen that particular production, so I can't make a more specific recommendation about it.)  All operas I can think of, with few exceptions, do have adult situations in them: love, jealousy, revenge, the regular stuff.  I did check specifically with the Met to inquire about the "appropriateness" of the stagings they are offering this season in the HD setting, since occasionally the Met veers off into "European-style" concept of certain scenes--and that would be not be good for most families.  I have been assured by their representative that the only opera to be offered this season that will be in "that" category is Alban Berg's "Lulu" (an amazing work, but definitely not a first choice for introducing opera to kids).

As always, every little bit of preparation helps: knowing the story in as much detail as you think will not be confusing (helpful to know the outlines, despite the wonderful supertitles that you'll have); perhaps seeing a few clips of the most famous scenes that may be available on You Tube and/or listening to a couple of the famous choruses, arias, instrumental numbers, etc.--these things are terribly helpful.  The really coolest thing about these productions, in addition to sitting in seats one could never afford or obtain in the real theater in NYC, is the chance to "go back stage" at the intermissions.  They arrange it so you have 10-15 minutes of colorful backstage experience at the end of each act, meeting and hearing from the singers, conductors, stage hands, designers, animal trainers (yes!), and watching sets slide in and all of the electricians, construction folks doing their work.  Then there's still a good length of intermission to go out and get more popcorn and use the rest rooms.  Quite frankly, if a child fell asleep during parts of the opera (which is not unusual even for adults!) but was just awake for these back-stage sessions, he or she would still get a LOT out of it.  The more preparation with the story itself, of course, the better.  Let me know if you make a decision about a specific opera and I'll try to add some information. 





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JaneE

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Reply with quote  #3 
Thank you, Carol, for your suggestions.  You gave me more than I expected!  I especially appreciate that you called the Met to determine which ones would be appropriate for families.  Thanks also for offering to give more ideas once we decide on a specific opera.  I am thinking of taking our kids in January or February, and I will check with you for the more specific preparation suggestions once we decide which one.
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Linda

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Reply with quote  #4 
Hello, Professor Carol.  Thank you for your recent blog posts on the Met Opera's live HD broadcasts.   I am an opera lover, and would love to take my kids to see one of these, but I have hesitated because I'm not sure that my kids' reading skills are up to reading the subtitles through a whole opera.  

JaneE, if you are still checking this forum, I would love to hear how your eleven-year-old did at the opera.  Was it a good experience for your child at that age?

Many thanks!
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JaneE

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Reply with quote  #5 
Hi, Linda, I am sorry that I cannot help you.  Unfortunately, our family had date conflicts with all of the 2015-16 broadcasts, and I was hoping to do it the next season, but then I forgot about it.  So I never took my kids.  I now have another 11-year-old, and the 11-year-old mentioned in the original post has just turned 14.  Prof. Carol's recent blog post reminded of the HD broadcasts, and I hope we can go to one between now and the end of the season. If we do, I will post here about our experience!

I think I heard Prof. Carol say one time that she knows a child (maybe 8-9?) who has been to many of the Met Opera broadcasts and loves them.  Maybe Prof. Carol can comment?
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Linda

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Reply with quote  #6 
Thank you for responding, JaneE!  If you end up taking your kids to the Met broadcasts, please do post about your experience.  My kids really want to see a whole opera, so the Massenet "Cendillon" (Cinderella) may be a good bet for us.

It also occurred to me that a musical may be a good starter introduction to opera, and that would eliminate the issue of reading subtitles.  But I'll start a different thread for that.  

Thank you again, JaneE!
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JaneE

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Reply with quote  #7 
I think you are right that musicals are a very good introduction to opera.  My husband and I enjoy good musicals very much, and we listened to CD musical soundtracks in the car since our kids were babies. So our kids have grown up hearing "Sound of Music," "Music Man," "Mary Poppins," "Oklahoma" (often skipping the dark song that we don't like), "Les Miserables," "West Side Story" (the offensive words fly over the kids' heads if you don't mention them), "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," "Phantom of the Opera," "Camelot" and more. As the kids have gotten mature enough, we have let them see the musicals as movies at home, or in person at youth theater productions in the area. My kids have requested to see some of the movie musicals several times, which shows how much they enjoy them.  For birthdays, we allow the each child to choose a birthday outing, and sometimes an older child has chosen to see a musical in a professional production, and they have been thrilled every time.  For example, my oldest daughter wanted to see "Phantom of the Opera" for her 18th birthday, and we were able to see a spectacular professional production that came to the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. 

On the other hand, even though we have not gone to the Met broadcasts, in the past three years, I have taken my kids to see two hour-long concerts of familiar opera segments, and they have not liked them. We also saw "Turandot" as a movie and they did not like that either.  They do not like the fact that they cannot understand the words of the songs, even the ones in English, because of the style of opera singing.  In hindsight, I should have taken the kids to a Met broadcast instead of these concerts because now my kids have decided that they do not like opera.  But we are going to a Met broadcast anyway, now that I have been reminded of them, and it will be part of school (we homeschool and they know that they have to do things they don't like that are a part of school). I want my kids to have a chance to get good opinion of some opera, even if they always prefer musicals over opera (as I do).
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Linda

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Reply with quote  #8 
Hello again, JaneE, and thank you for your detailed response.  I loved reading about how you introduced your kids to musicals.  Musicals were big in my high school, but for some reason I've not had my kids watch or attend any. You have inspired me!  I love your idea of giving your kids a special outing for their birthdays.  What a gift you have given them, that you have taught them to love live performances.

We have decided to go ahead and take the whole family to the Met broadcast production of Massenet's Cendrillon.  My kids are really eager to go, and since they already know the Cinderella storyline, they won't be bogged down with reading the subtitles.  Hopefully all will go well.

Thank you for all your help.  I really appreciate the time that you took to let me know about your family's experiences.

- Linda
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JaneE

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Reply with quote  #9 
Thank you for what you wrote. I am glad to have helped.

Cendrillon does sound like a good choice for a first opera.  It is a definite plus that your kids are eager to go.  Unfortunately, our family will be out of town on that date.  Please post about how it goes!

The other remaining Met opera choices for this season do not appear to be good choices for kids, so I have made a note on my calendar about the new season starting in October, and will make it a priority to see a production.

I hope your kids like Cendrillon and opera even better than you expect, and that this is the first of many productions you will enjoy as a family!

Jane
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Linda

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Reply with quote  #10 

Hello again, Jane! I wanted to update you that this past weekend my family did go to see the Met Opera HD broadcast of Massenet’s Cendrillon (Cinderella) and it was wonderful! Just as Professor Carol said, it was like having better-than-front-row seats. The camera close-ups, the backstage view of set changes, the interviews with the major players all made it special. This opera, in particular, was delightful because of the plot and the whimsical set design and costumes. My kids never fidgeted or started whispering – they were so completely engrossed in the opera. My first-grade son woke up the next morning and said, “Mommy, I can’t get the opera out of my head!” There couldn’t have been a better first opera experience for them! 

What was more, in the city we went to the broadcast was held in a beautiful 1930’s-era theater originally built for Vaudeville and “talkies” - just like Professor Carol talks about in her America’s Artistic Legacy lectures.

Thank you for starting this thread originally. It gave me a lot to think about a few months ago as my husband and I were considering taking our kids to one of these. Now we can’t wait for the next season, even for the operas where we’ll leave the kids with a sitter. If it works out for your schedule next season, I highly recommend these broadcasts.

Best wishes to you, Jane!  

Kindly,

Linda

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admin

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Reply with quote  #11 
It's delightful to read this report!  I'm so happy the experience was so fulfilling and exciting.  It's precisely what one would hope. Opera is powerful. Children take it in deeply--melody, dramatic story, visual beauty, musical intensity, lighting, costumes, the sense of a live performance! What a combination.

And maybe the nicest part was your statement that you are already anticipating next season, including the productions that wouldn't necessarily be ideal for kids, but great for adults. Also, how fabulous that you experienced all of this in an historically interesting theatrical space!

Your experience continues what I have found in almost every case: people (no matter their backgrounds) who are able to attend these broadcasts are moved by them, impressed, excited, even inspired. The whole endeavor--the satellite live matinees (as well as the Wednesday-evening rebroadcasts called "Encore" performances that many movie theaters offer)--has the power to open so many doors, not just to opera but to live theater in general. Who knows what child might see this and think: "When I grow up, I want to be one of the people who makes the lights work" (or designs the costumes, conducts the orchestra, or trains the animals for stage-performances). One also becomes aware of just how many moving parts a theater performance on this scale involves. An older child may also be thinking of just the sheer logistics of getting people in and out, the financial costs of this kind of first-class production, and the amount of rehearsal and planning it takes.  

Thank you, Linda, for taking the plunge and reporting on it. And thank you too, as always, Jane, for encouraging inquiry into the Met HD Broadcasts. And for all you do to encourage the arts as a central part of everyone's education.
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JaneE

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Reply with quote  #12 
Thank you, Linda, for posting how it went!  What you wrote is a big encouragement to me to take my kids.  I wish we could have gone on Saturday.  I am very glad that it was such a good experience for your kids.  I had not even thought about taking my 2nd-grade boy along with my middle school girls, but I will include him now, based on what you said about your 1st-grader.  Wow!
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Linda

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Reply with quote  #13 

Professor Carol and Jane, thank you both for your kind comments. There was one other detail about this production of Massenet’s Cendrillon that I forgot to mention, but that you will both appreciate: The inspiration for this production came from the director’s memory of a storybook of Charles Perrault’s Cinderella that his grandmother used to read him when he was a child, so he envisioned an opera production that looked as much like that cherished storybook as he could make it. What resulted really was a magical version of Cinderella on the stage. The whimsical details in the set design were absolutely delightful. Add in the gorgeous music and it truly was a fairytale opera in every aspect, all because a grandmother took the time to read a beautifully illustrated fairytale to her grandson.  

What wonderful inspiration for all parents and grandparents who are committed to reading aloud to their children! 

- Linda

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JaneE

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Reply with quote  #14 
That is quite an inspiration--for staging the opera and for adults who read to children!  Thanks for writing about it.  You never know how reading can make a difference in a child's life.  In college my oldest daughter wrote for an assignment that some of her favorite childhood memories are of my reading aloud to her and her siblings.  She will never stage an opera, but who knows what other benefits will result from reading aloud?

Linda, I am very glad that you revived this forum topic, and I hope that next season there will be a Met Opera production that will be just as good as Cendrillon for my kids to attend.

Thanks,
Jane

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