Tag Archive for Little Opera

A Different Kind of Conversation

I have been a classroom teacher for about 26 years, mostly teaching seven to nine-year-old children in public school. This is my third year as a Teaching Artist for Little Opera. Before Little Opera, I worked with my regular classroom students making mini-operas as in partnership with San Francisco Opera’s ARIA program.  I have been thinking about the differences between working with children in a small after-school program and during a regular school day, trying to accomplish essentially the same thing. And it is so very different!

At Little Opera, I work with around 12 students after school, with at least one other teacher, so we are able to have a new kind of creative relationship than any I’ve been able to experience in the past. Conversation. It’s the conversations that make such an impact on the process of creating something, especially something so complicated as opera with the many facets and pieces that all need to work together. We are creating and collaborating on many levels across many disciplines simultaneously, which makes it a heady and rich experience. What feeds student and teacher alike are the opportunities to contemplate, puzzle over, question and explore with each other.

Danny Shows Wagners Finale

We made some awesome mini-operas when I worked with a whole classroom of students during the school day, but looking back I can see that the adults and the children that had the leadership, ready creativity and skills already drove the process, and others came along and learned from it. With our intimate after-school group, everyone is ruminating, exploring, succeeding, failing, reflecting and refining. And we aren’t doing it in a vacuum because we have time for creative conversation — little ones and big ones, personal ones and group ones, musical conversations that we sing and silent conversations that we dance.

I retired from full-time classroom teaching three years ago, but I still teach two days a week at the same school. I started working for Little Opera the following year.  I loved my full-time teaching job but felt compelled to truly immerse myself in the creative conversations of children (and other teaching artists), and that is what drove my decision. It’s not like it was impossible to have that experience in a classroom of 22-plus kids, but my, oh my, there are so many more of those rich conversations after school in Little Opera.


Creative Chaos

When we are young, we are encouraged (one hopes) to learn a little about everything, to experiment with an array of art forms and disciplines to see if any of those languages resonates particularly strongly with who we are and who we are becoming. All those things we are introduced to as young people are potential pathways for our expression, and we are excited by the seeming limitlessness of perspectives on the world.

When I think of Little Opera, as often I do, I see a group of sensitive, intelligent, funny kids with opinions and talents and a blossoming artistic consciousness. I also see a group of kids that is happily still on the side of the threshold where the process of discovery and questioning (and rebellion, naturally) is the guiding force.

Little Opera students express almost equal excitement for all the activities we plan for them, whether it involves singing or improvising a skit, making costumes on paper or writing a poem about their character. When was the last time you had the opportunity to express yourself in all those ways – and realize how adept you can be at whatever you tried? I love teaching these kids; they remind me how important it is for educators to keep those doors — and their own minds — open to the different ways proficiency can manifest. I am lucky to be a guide for their unbounded curiosity, or what we like to call the creative chaos of figuring stuff out.

Little Opera does not promote a conservatory approach, and I love that. It is the multiplicity of influences and opportunities that the Little Opera curriculum provides that keeps the channel open to all kinds of connection.

-By Eva Langman, Teaching Artist 2014-2015

Zeke's spider

“I’m Nervous…and Excited!”

Oh, the audition. An entirely artificial situation in which someone who wants the part has to put their money where their mouth is and do it…without the luxury of props, costumes, or anyone else to collaborate with. And as simple as it might sound in theory, anyone who’s watched old “I Love Lucy” reruns can tell you just how much can go wrong.

Right before the holiday break, all three classes held auditions for the various roles in our operas. In the Humperdincks’ workspace, our students had spent several weeks mulling over which roles they thought might suit them. We asked them to consider if they would prefer to sing, act or dance, and which parts would be the most fun.

Now, let’s be clear: Auditioning is difficult when you’re fully grown and trained and prepared. Even when it goes swimmingly and you get the role, gig, job or part, it’s still an extremely stressful situation!

And up against nerves and hopes, our students were fantastic.  Some sang, some danced, some simply showed us their interpretation of a specific character with silent acting. All were dynamic and hilarious, all knew exactly what they wanted, and then they went and got it. And I think they did so well because they’ve been invested in a process of creation and exploration. They’ve spent so much time concentrated on these characters that they developed themselves that their nerves did not get the best of them. They were too busy creating something cool to be nervous!

It’s also important to point out that the students were entirely supportive of each other. Auditions were held during class, and the kids watched each other perform. A sense of understanding permeated through the classroom, and they applauded each other’s efforts enthusiastically.

I couldn’t be more proud of our Humperdincks for their great work so far this year. They continue to blow my mind and surprise me all the time.  Next comes rehearsing, choreographing, singing and costume-making!  And I, for one, cannot wait.

-By Ariana Strahl, Partner Teaching Artist 2014-2015