We at Painted Sky Opera are gearing up for our production of Amahl and the NIght Visitors on December 14 and 15 and let me tell you - I’m excited about it! There’s lots of reasons for this excitement. After all, it’s December 2nd and we are adding to the joy and festive nature of the OKC holiday season with our production of the most beloved Christmas opera of all time. Plus, we get to perform Amahl in a beautiful venue that is new to us - the sanctuary at First Baptist Church of Oklahoma City. It’s all very exciting.
But, the main reason I’m excited about Amahl and the NIght Visitors is that it’s the first time Painted Sky Opera is doing a full opera that is specifically aimed at kids. I may be the artistic director at Painted Sky Opera, but I’m also an educator who has always been passionate about the importance of arts education. That’s why the mission of Painted Sky Opera states that we “present innovative, inspiring opera through performance AND education.” I have seen first-hand that seeing an opera can be transformative to young audiences.
Research shows clearly that exposure to the arts and particularly live theatre builds a whole host of skills in kids, including empathy, communication, creativity, collaboration, cultural awareness, and critical thinking as well as the ability to recognize that they themselves have talents. Exposure to opera for kids also builds these same skills, but the continuously expressive music of opera is particularly effective in showing kids how to recognize emotions in others. Also, the creative plots and characters in opera certainly lead many students to explore their own creativity more completely. Plus, opera frequently originates in cultures outside of the audience’s own culture, which can heighten kids’ awareness of those cultures.
I am always particularly excited to bring opera to kids because most of them don’t even know that humans can do what opera singers do. For all of our singers who do operatic outreach in schools, we absolutely love the moment when the students hear the first high note and their eyes go wide that humans can make sounds like that AND act and communicate as they do so. Although we don’t always think of them like this, opera singers are pretty amazing athletes. When the fifth graders walk out of our performance and start singing in an operatic voice while walking down the halls, we know we’ve done our job.
My favorite story about how opera has spurred kids to be creative is my experience with Matthew, the son of Painted Sky Opera’s costume director. Two years ago, Matthew was 2 years old and I went with him and his mother to a performance of a kids version of Pirates of Penzance given by UCO Opera. Matthew was enraptured by the performance and afterward clearly had empathy for the “sad girl” who was sent away by the main tenor. Matthew requested that his mother play the music of Pirates of Penzance frequently after that performance and even memorized the opening song of Pirates to sing and perform on his “stage”. Matthew taught the song to his friends at day care. I can only imagine what his teachers thought of a group of 2 year old boys running around the playground singing Gilbert and Sullivan at the top of their lungs.
The point is that experiencing opera can be incredibly influential in a child’s life. Just two days ago, Matthew (now 4) told me all about the opera he was writing starring himself as a T-Rex (which I’d love to see personally). He also asked his mother when he can start auditioning for operas. I fully expect that one day, he’ll be starring in one of our future productions - maybe even a production of Amahl and the Night Visitors.
I would urge you to bring kids to the opera. Let them discover how amazing human beings are and the kind of beauty that exists in this world. At the worst, they will have had an interesting afternoon and a new appreciation for what is possible. At the best, they will be transformed.
Amahl and the Night Visitors
December 14 at 7 pm and December 15 at 5 pm
First Baptist of OKC at 1201 North Robinson
Purchase tickets online through our website or at the door