The Adventures of a 10 Year Old at the Opera

Feb 26, 2010

By Mark Calvert

My nephew, Jesse, came to visit me last weekend as we were in the thick of final rehearsals for Figaro. This creative and unique little boy lives in a tiny Kansas town (population 1,008) where opportunities to experience opera are non-existent. So, with some parental finagling so that Jesse could play hooky from school, we made arrangements for him to have a front row seat and see how we do it. I arranged to have him watch an orchestra stage rehearsal and – the next day – the piano dress rehearsal. Although I already knew he marches to his own drumbeat, I had no idea if he would like this process or find it boring. Kids do not hide their true feelings (years of performing for children tells me this), and I knew this little guy would be no exception.

He ate it all up! From the moment of the first downbeat of the first rehearsal, Jesse was entranced; not only by the beautiful, lush playing of the orchestra, but also by the singing, the language, and the intricate plot. In fact, Jesse really started to figure things out and began to bury his head in the music score, trying to untangle the new sounds of Italian in his ear. To his credit, by the end of the second day his Italian was shockingly good (kids are sponges for information).

I watched from the stage as Jesse walked through the theater (happily having the entire house to himself), listening and watching from different areas. I couldn’t believe that I ever thought that Le nozze di Figaro would ever be beyond the reach of a child. It is not: the music is complex, yet it leaves listeners of all ages humming the tunes; the story – from a literary masterpiece – has elements of humor, sadness, anger, and forgiveness; and the visual elements of staging, lights, costumes, and sets, only encourage kids to embrace their imaginations.

Jesse spent the second evening’s rehearsal “apprenticing” under the lighting designer, Jim Sale, and the director, Garnett Bruce. He freely offered his young, professional opinions, staked out his territory at the production table in the theater, and managed to stay awake, alert, and entertained through to the final curtain. (It should be noted, though, that the post-rehearsal production meeting immediately put him into deep sleep.)

I will go out on a limb and speak for myself and my fellow singers. When we are on stage in the middle of a performance, we love to hear the honest and spontaneous reactions from children (laughter, applause, booing the bad guy, etc.).

So, my suggestion is this: save the money on a baby sitter, spend five minutes to explain the plot of Le nozze di Figaro to your child, and treat your 10 year old to some Mozart.

Appearing before audiences of all ages at the Orpheum Theater, Mark Calvert will play the dual roles of Don Basilio and Don Curzio in Mozart’s Comic Masterpiece, The Marriage of Figaro.

American tenor Mark Calvert has performed to critical acclaim with numerous European opera companies, including productions with the Stadttheater Gieben, the Schlossfestspiele Heidelberg, the Theater der Stadt Heidelberg, and the Kammeroper Konstanz. Between 2006 and 2009, he was an ensemble member of the Landestheater Linz (Austria), where his repertoire ranged from baroque to contemporary operas. He made his Italian debut with the Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi in Kurt Weill’s The Seven Deadly Sins, and more recently, he sang Vašek in The Bartered Bride with the Aargauer Symphonie Orchester in Switzerland. A native of Wichita, Kansas, Calvert earned his degrees from Yale University School of Music and Lawrence University in Wisconsin. He received his early training with The Santa Fe Opera, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Seattle Opera, Aspen Music Festival, and Pittsburgh Opera, where he was awarded the 2000 Richard F. Gold Career Grant from The Shoshana Foundation.

Tickets start at just $19.

Friday | February 26, 2010 | 7:30p
Sunday | February 28, 2010 | 2:00p

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