An Opera for Kids????

19th April 2010

If you ask an adult about opera, most of them will make comments like, opera is boring, or opera is only for old people with too much money. To most adults, opera is a mysterious world which only mysterious people enter. They certainly wouldn’t think it’s a world for kids. And they certainly wouldn’t imagine a 10-year old saying,

“Dad, can you take me to the opera—please!”

But that’s exactly what my 10 year old daughter said!!

So how did this happen? Is my daughter weird?

Not at all. For in the last Christmas holidays, I took her to see The Enchanted Pig performed by The Opera Group. And she was so enchanted by this opera that she asked me take her again!

So yesterday I took my whole family—including my 7-year old—to see this opera in Oxford. And what did my daughters think this time—both of them? Well my 10-year old said it was even better the second time, and my 7-year old gave it a 10/10! Not only that, but my wife and I enjoyed it too!

Why did my daughters like this opera so much? Was it because the music was simple, or very loud with a strong beat, or even full of catchy tunes that you could sing along to?? Not really. There were a some great tunes. There was a beat to tap your toes to sometimes. However, the music was never very loud. And it certainly wasn’t simple. The music was opera—-modern opera at that. The music had everything you could expect to hear at a ‘serious adult’ opera.

What made the opera so enchanting for kids was the story, and even more so, the words. The story was about princesses, kings, true love, evil mothers… all the sort of things you get in fairy tales like Cinderella, or Beauty and the Beast. But the words were something else! Here are few lines from ‘The Enchanted Pig’…

I love the curlers in her hair.

I love his dirty underwear.

I love the way he never knows

When he’s got bogies up his nose.

I love the way her false teeth clack.

I love his really hairy back.

I love it when my programme starts,

She sits in that armchair and farts.

Yes, ‘The Enchanted Pig’ was very funny! (But it was also very serious too. And that’s what made it very good for adults as well).

The familiar story lines and great words in ‘The Enchanted Pig’ allowed children to enter into the musical world of opera. The music made the silly, even sillier, and the funny, even funnier (as well as the serious, even more serious). It added extra meaning to the words and story. And it really brought the story and words to life. In this way, and almost without knowing it, my children understood music that is quite modern and complicated (for example, there was some wind music that sounded quite like the modern sounding storm music by Benjamin Britten).

I could go on and on about why ‘The Enchanted Pig’ is such a great opera. But I don’t want to bore you! I really only want to make one point. And that is this…

Opera need not be mysterious. Opera can be lots of fun. And it can even be for kids! In short, opera need not boring!! Kids, don’t let any adult tell you otherwise until you’ve seen for yourself!

A video trailer for ‘The Enchanted Pig’

Video credits:
  1. The Enchanted Pig. The Enchanted Pig: A musical fairytale for all the family. “A source of magic and enchantment”.

    Ths co production with Young Vic and ROH2 at the Royal Opera House tours to Theatre Royal Bury St. Edmunds (30 March 3 April), Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield (7 April), RNCM, Manchester (10 April) and Oxford Playhouse (15 18 April). Visit www.theoperagroup.co.uk for more details.

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