Old Operas, New Discoveries

 

As a newbie on the Little Opera team, I thought I’d share a few thoughts about my point of view and how Little Opera is transforming my relationship to the art form that I adore.

Opera is unique in a lot of ways.  It’s everything at once, all the time, just like our closing song says.  As a performer, it can feel like a speeding car that should crash and burn every single night, but miraculously, through the incredibly hard work of hundreds of professionals on and off stage, it doesn’t.

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When done thoughtfully, opera has the potential to be historical and emotional and political and psychological.  It can cut a direct path to hearts in dire need of catharsis — the universality of the human voice can access the deepest crevices of the soul better than anything I know.  Opera starts with something absolutely normal (singing) and blows it up to epic proportions, while expanding every emotion along with it.

When done right, opera is unmatched in emotional and artistic potency.  As performers, we’ve done our job when the audience leaves the house feeling something.

At Little Opera, I watch our students explore these elements for the first time.  Even our youngest students (2nd and 3rd graders) come up with the most sensitive and brilliant ideas, and I am witness to fascinating bursts of imagination. These kids can tell you all about how a song feels and why.  Without even trying, they’ve grasped concepts that take most adults years to understand.

Selfishly, I must admit that I thank my lucky stars that American opera’s future audience members are so excited about this wild world.  To be connecting children to this type of culture at such an early age is invaluable, and leaves a lasting impression.  Any number of these kids might find their way into some kind of career in the performing arts, an incredibly rewarding pursuit.  Who knows, maybe some will be my colleagues in another few years!  I hope to be so lucky.

But in the meantime, I’m also starting to sing from a new perspective.  As I discover the stories in the various shows I’m working on, I’m reminded that each work’s origin is rooted in someone’s imagination having run wild.  Somewhere, hidden behind the centuries, multiple editions, and countless arguments about how any number of styles and composers should be sung and played, someone had an idea that turned into each of these masterful works.

And as I now watch ideas turning into operas at Little Opera, I am making a point to honor that in a new way.

– by Ariana Strahl
Partner Teaching Artist, 2014-2015