Monday, July 18, 2001: Kids? Opera?!

Children? and opera? a look at these happy faces gives the answer ...

All this week Opus Osm is enjoying a summer holiday, but we just had to climb back down from the hiking trail to come and tell you about this special performance set for this weekend.

Kids Sing Opera!

We live in an age when many adults fear the opera, most teenagers avoid opera music, and some internet discussion groups question whether children are even capable of singing opera.

Now for the good news.

This weekend in Prague you can watch three young choirs – one from the US, one from New Zealand, and one from Prague – disprove these doubts and stereotypes about kids and opera.

The Rhapsody! Children’s Music Festival, organized by the Classical Movements concert touring company of Alexandria, Virginia, will present concerts on Friday evening at St Salvator Church, Saturday evening at The Rudolfinum, and at Sunday morning Mass at St Vitus Cathedral.

The Princeton Girlchoir, New Jersey, featuring girls age 8-18, and the Seraphim Choir of Chilton St James School, New Zealand, girls age 14-18, are touring and performing in Vienna, Salzburg, and Prague July 14-25. They’ll join The Children’s Opera Prague (Dětská Opera Praha) for the concert at 6 pm Saturday at the Rudolfinum. That concert will feature two Czech works including the opening chorus from Smetana’s opera The Bartered Bride. The Czech chamber orchestra Virtuosi Pragenses will accompany the young singers. Joan Gregoryk, founder and artistic director of the Children’s Chorus, Washington, is the conductor.

Singing opera is nothing new for The Children’s Opera Prague, of course. It was founded in 1999 by Jiřina Marková-Krystlíková, former soloist of the National Theatre and a professor of singing at the Prague Conservatory. The children have performed works including Jan Jakub Ryba’s Christmas Mass, appeared regularly as guests at the Smetana Litomyšl Music Festival, performed several operettas for children and families, and released six CDs.

The Festival choirs have been coming to Prague since 2001

The Rhapsody! Children’s Music Festival organizers have chosen Prague as a concert destination for the festival’s various choirs every year for the past decade. Neeta Helms, president of Classical Movements, Inc., explains that Prague has been a destination of choice along with Vienna and Salzburg “because of its beauty and the country’s rich music history, culture, and heritage.”

She continues, “We are very aware that parents of the children pay a lot to give their children this [travel and music] experience. For them it’s a trip of a lifetime, and we want to deliver a high-quality music product. Prague allows us to do that year after year.”

But it’s not just a whirlwind European vacation, as Mrs Helms tells Opus Osm: “The choirs who come as part of the tour learn a lot of music” during their trip. This year, for example, the students will attend workshops on music theory and famous musical works, tour historical districts (including a stop-off at Český Krumlov), and perform in a cathedral in each of the three cities. In addition, each choir holds several rehearsals in preparation for their choir’s performance which lasts 15 to 30 minutes, and for the finale with all the choirs combined. In each city the choirs also hold a “singing dinner,” when each choir sings for the others, providing a unique and memorable learning experience.

“The choirs rehearse with each other and with the orchestra and guest conductor and after many, many hours of work they sing at a very high level,” Mrs Helms explains.

“This is a concert by children,” she admits, “but it is for a music-loving, adult audience.”

And perhaps one in which adults can learn a lot about opera – from the kids. – oo

Mary Matz

Photo Credits: Rhapsody! Children's Music Festival

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