By: Jenny B. Davis
Through the Fort Worth Opera’s Children’s Opera Theatre (COT), students are introduced to opera and classical music with hilarious, educational shows based on timeless, classic fairy tales. Local schools can host professional yet affordable 45-minute performances that expose students to something they may not otherwise experience in their lives.
Amanda Robie, director of the Hattie Mae Lesley Apprentice Artists, says, “Opera is in a state of transition where we are trying to find new ways to excite and engage audiences including students and the next generation of opera lovers…If children aren’t exposed in the classroom, they might not experience this very stylized art form that is not part of our popular culture at the moment. To create well-rounded educated individuals, it is important that they be exposed to many different art forms.”
Reaching nearly 40,000 students on average each year in the DFW Metroplex, the ensemble is made up of four professionally trained opera singers known as the Hattie Mae Lesley Apprentice Artists and a staff pianist, Stephen Carey.
"The COT performers are young artists making the step between completing school and starting their careers. They are fully trained opera singers that go to schools and give a true operatic performance even if it is a fairy tale story,” Robie says.
Robie helps educators integrate the art form into their curriculum by distributing professionally developed teacher’s guides in advance of a performance. The guides include lesson plans and advice for using the opera performance as a large-scale learning experience in the classroom.
Current shows include Little Red’s Most Unusual Day, which tells the story of Forest Ranger Dudley and how he is too shy to ask Little Red’s mother to the Forest Ranger Ball, and The Bremen Town Musicians, featuring an adaptation of the tale of Dorabella the Cat, Barcarolle the Dog, Eddie Pensier the Rooster and General Boom the Donkey.
COT performances consist of elaborate sets, costumes, fully staged acting, singing and choreography. They are designed specifically for elementary school students and presented in both public and private schools. For secondary schools, the COT offers Opera Mythbusters. Also performed by its resident singers, the show demonstrates how opera fits into our culture and experiences various forms of live music.
“Students are extremely engaged and given the opportunity to ask questions about the performance after the opera…We get letters from the teachers afterward, and schools want to have us back every year because they love what we do for the students," Robie says.
Another way in which students are given the opportunity to experience opera is during Student Night at Bass Performance Hall. Not only are children able to get an inside look at the final dress rehearsals for Bass Hall productions, but they also get to see technical adjustments, a director in action and an orchestra fine-tuning the music. At only $5 per pass, there is no excuse why students shouldn’t be able to have this one-of-a-kind experience.
By: Jenny B. Davis