Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Opera Music Lesson for Elementary Age Children

This is the third in the Prince Bob Music Lesson Series:

Matilda Leads an Opera

Our Cast of Characters:

Matilda: The Diva – One who thinks the world revolves around her. She is it!

Matilda is preparing for her big Opera for Prince Bob – celebrating the recapture of all of the greased pigs and the prowess of Prince Bob at being a world class Greased Pig Catcher.

The Chorus: This fine group of young people divided into four groups.
One group sings: The Prince, he catches the pig!
The second Groups sings: Yes, Indeed he does!
The third: Hurray for Prince Bob!
The fourth: The pigs are back!

Our Story –

We find Matilda in the dressing room preparing for her starring role in the
Celebration of the Pigs Return Opera. An Opera is a drama set to music.

Matilda: Oh, hello children! You are finally here. Oh my, we must really hurry. The performance is just this evening and we are not ready!

Matilda to herself: Hmmm… I wonder what these children know about an opera…I think I will ask them…

Ahem! Children! You! Little people with big grown up attitudes…what do you know about opera? Hmmmnmm? Come, Now. Do not be shy….

(Talk about Opera and their opinion of it. What do they know?)

Fill in some here with facts: Opera can be traced back to ancient Greece. As Opera began to flourish in 17th century Italy it also spread to other parts of Europe. An Opera is a Drama set to music. An Opera available at the Local Library is Hansel and Gretel. Mozart and Handel wrote Operas as well as others that we may not be as familiar with such as Arnold Schoenberg who wrote Moses and Aron.

How to sing with a classical voice. As Renee Fleming once said: “We are screaming in a very cultivated fashion”. The reason? A big theatre and no audio mikes in the early days. The sound had to be projected. This takes the training of certain muscles in the body and learning breath control. As an athlete would train, so must the classical singer.
Singing with an “Open Throat” - To insure the least possible strain on the vocal chords.

Parts you may hear are : Sopranos, Mezzo Sopranos, Altos, Tenors, Baritones and Basses. They go from highest pitch to lowest pitch in this order.

Did you ever hear of the Three Tenors? They have an operatic sound.

Back to the Story...

Well, if you have been sent to me today to prepare for this evening’s performance we had better get to work.

You, young man – come here! I need you to be the Prince for our rehearsal. These children need to learn to bow and curtsy. You will please be seated while these children sing to you.

Young lady! You will be the Prince’s escort for the evening. So…. You sit here just beside the young man and mind your manners. You are a fine lady indeed!

Now, you, you, you, you and you! Come and stand here….now no wiggling! You must be very still. You will be singing a most important part….well, not as important as mine, but still….anyway you must learn your part. It goes like this:
“The Prince, he catches the Pig!”
Please, sing it with me now. Oh, not so good…please sing it again! Ahhh much better.
Do you know that you must sing it with all of the joy enthusiasm expected of us by Prince Bob!

OK – Now dear funny faced children: I need you, you , you , you , you, you and you! You will be singing a part that goes like this: “Yes! Indeed he does!”

Stand still and be very serious! This is big business! My fourth cousin three times removed, Alfreda, started in the Opera when she was about your age! How old are you, my dear girl. Why yes! She was exactly your age when she first performed in the Grand Opera Houses of Italy!
I, myself got a bit of a later start when I stumbled on this wonderful musical form in a town called Venice. Oh, it was sweet. The soprano – you know the most important one in the Opera – wink! – was just adored by her fans and I soooo love to be adored that I just sucked in all of the air around me and began to let out these noises. At first I sounded like this….(little sound)

Then this….(medium squeaky sound)

But finally I began to sing like a bird (give a real open throated clear tone)
and the crowds came out to see me that it has been a big pleasure ever since!

Oh, my dear little ones we must keep preparing for our performance…

Now I need you, you, you, you, you, you, you, you, you and you! Over here! This is also a very important part so you must pay attention!
You will sing: Hurray for Prince Bob!

Sing with me now… Hurray for Prince Bob!

Quickly now, the rest of you sweet cherubs over here please. We need to learn your part for this evening’s grand performance.
You will be the …ahem…most important part of all…except mine, of course.
Here is how it goes:
“The pigs are back!, The Pigs are back, the pigs are back!” (think Figaro)

Do you have it? O.k. My Dears this is what I need you to do:

When it is your turn to sing your verrryyyy important parts (Big wink) I will wave my freshly manicured hand in your general direction. Please, young ones, watch my hand!
Do you like it, The nail color, I mean….It is the newest thing….

Oh, my, how I digress…back to the show!

Matilda Sings:

It was a lovely day. The day the pigs were found. We found the one called Gospel and then the one called Blues…although he was a tricky one.

We took them to the fairgrounds where the Prince he played his favorite game.

Part One: The Prince, he catches the pig!
Part Two: Yes, Indeed he does!
Part Three: Hurray for Prince Bob!
Part Four: The pigs are back! (3x)

Matilda Sings

We captured Hip Hop piggy and then Praise and Worship was a trip.
They capered all around the place costing Mrs. Smith her hip.

Once again the Prince he played:

Part One: The Prince, he catches the pig!
Part Two: Yes, Indeed he does!
Part Three: Hurray for Prince Bob!
Part Four: The pigs are back! (3x)

Matilda Sings

That young Spiritual was a hoot as he ran around the laundry shoot!
Then Showtunes put on quite a show as she slipped on some wet balloons.

Then again that happy Prince played:

Part One: The Prince, he catches the pig!
Part Two: Yes, Indeed he does!
Part Three: Hurray for Prince Bob!
Part Four: The pigs are back! (3x)

Matilda Sings

Rock and Roll took off and stayed until the last
And then was caught and so we played:
While Prince Bob came out
To catch that last one for himself:

Part One: The Prince, he catches the pig!
Part Two: Yes, Indeed he does!
Part Three: Hurray for Prince Bob!
Part Four: The pigs are back! (3x)

The End!
Everyone Bows or curtsy’s for Prince Bob and His Lady.

If we were going to genuinely perform an Opera we would, of course, learn parts and act things out. In this class setting, however, my only goal is to introduce the musical style and some of the history. I hope to take away that shudder that we often experience at the very thought of opera. While doing research for this class I have found that “clean” opera seems to be hard to find. Still, it does not need to detract from opera as an art form and can be absolutely beautiful as some that were written by Handel, who also wrote the oratorio, Messiah.

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