Monday morning 9:30 AM, we just finished putting up the set for our 10:30 show of Hansel and Gretel. The gym is cold, we are all half-asleep. I am dreaming of another cup of coffee, Mark just found a basketball, Sarah is getting ready and Beth is sewing. This scene has become very familiar in the past week. It is surprising how fast we get into a routine when we are on a school tour and even if all schools are different, they all seem the same when we arrive.
10:15 : We get our 15 minutes call, everybody is ready to go. The children start to come into the gym and we hear their excited voices. Sarah goes to “train” her “birds” (three children who are chosen to come on stage waving birds during the show). The show is not even started and already they are getting into Hansel and Gretel’s universe. The set is colourful and catches their attention right away.
The first notes are played, I enter the stage and see their little eyes captivated by everything that they see and hear. Even if they are always very attentive right from the beginning, their interest grows instantaneously when the cat brings in the gingerbread house. When I see their faces looking at that house full of candies, it is not hard for me to seem surprised and tempted, I just need to copy their expressions!
This is what I love about opera. It is not only beautiful music, but it has the power to bring dreams and imagination to our lives, The children are a generous audience : they laugh, cry, reply and comment, but most of all they believe. They know it is only a story, that Beth is not a real witch, that we are wearing costumes and that our trees are made of painted plywood, but they don’t care. I assume most of them have never been to an opera before and I think it is a great privilege and honour to sing for them. This is why a school tour is important. It is not about singing very early in the morning in a cold gym, putting up and striking the set, it is about bringing the magic of opera to children’s lives!