Opera Tampa Visits Hillel Academy
Tuesday, November 11, 2014
For one music filled hour on the morning of Tuesday, November 11th, six members of Opera Tampa, accompanied by pianist Dr. Stephen Penn, performed for students in grades 3 through 8. Dr. Penn is the Music Director of Education Outreach at Opera Tampa. The concert took place in the sanctuary at Congregation Beth Am.
Opera Tampa is the resident opera company of the Straz Performing Arts Center. It is their belief that opera’s fascinating tradition stems from the idea that “the more you learn, the more exciting it is!” And if the Hillel Academy students’ reactions were any indication of success, this is a very successful outreach program! After each song the students clapped and shouted bravos as they would during a full performance in a theater.
The singers projected their voices without the use of microphones. In a friendly and engaging manner, they interacted with the students during a series of solos, duets and group performances. The children were taught that voice and music (usually an orchestra but a piano during this program) are major components of an opera, in addition to costumes and sets.
Short renditions of pieces composed by major artists including Verdi and Mozart were used to show the students the range of voices that sing in an opera. They learned that sopranos are the female love interest, the princess or the evil queen, and tenors are usually the male love interest or the hero. Tenors “fight the dragon and fight the bad guys”. They shared that operas are written in many languages including Italian, Spanish, French, German, Latin, English and even Hebrew, and operas are written and performed all over the world.
Jesse Lancaster demonstrated how facial expressions, hand gestures and body movement are used in addition to voice to depict various emotions when playing various roles. When he asked for a volunteer, 4th grader Sam jumped in and showed how he would express different emotions while walking across the bimah. He showed joy by skipping and fear by looking over his shoulder.
The members of Opera Tampa took a few minutes after their finale (and standing ovation) to answer questions. “Does an opera always tell a story?” “Do you have to know how to speak a language to sing in the language?” “How long does it take to learn a part?” All the singers told the children how important their early music education was to them whether it was voice lessons, piano or other musical instrument lessons, undergraduate school or graduate studies.