'Good, Live Music'|Fifth graders to perform in opera

COLLINS - Ten-year-old Jasmine Skrada used to think an opera meant crazy ladies singing in high voices. Now, she sees opera as an interesting art form with a story, and "good, live music' performed by an orchestra.
Aaron Krause
Jul 25, 2010

COLLINS — Ten-year-old Jasmine Skrada used to think an opera meant crazy ladies singing in high voices.

Now, she sees opera as an interesting art form with a story, and “good, live music” performed by an orchestra.

Jasmine is not alone among her peers: Since they’ve been rehearsing for their parts in the opera “Carmen,” Western Reserve fifth-graders have become enamored by, and more educated about opera.

The students are set to perform “Carmen” Monday with professionals from Opera Cleveland on Tour. The 2 p.m. performance is set aside for Western’s student body, while the 7 p.m. performance is open to the public. Both are free.

This isn’t the first time Western Reserve Elementary is teaming up with Opera Cleveland to present a show. Seven years ago, Western’s fourth-graders presented Barber of Seville with the education and outreach arm of Opera Cleveland.

“It was a smashing success; they still talk about it,” music teacher Deb Henry said.

Meanwhile, current Western fifth-graders are abuzz over “Carmen,” about a woman not afraid to pursue her heart’s desires whatever the consequences.  

“Oh my Lord, yes,” Henry said. At first, she said, the boys and girls were hesitant and not sure what to expect: Was an opera one of those shows with fat ladies sporting Viking horns? Was it just a bunch of people screaming on stage?

 No and no, the students learned. Rather, they found out operas are peopled by normal, every-day people with beautiful voices

“It has a story behind it and it’s a lot more interesting than it really seems,” Jasmine said.

She has enjoyed rehearsing for “Carmen.”

“It is just really fun, I can’t really compare it to something else,” Jasmine said. “This whole thing was just ‘Wow.’”

And performances have not yet begun.

Ten-year-old Brandon Morrow said he knew nothing about operas before rehearsals began. Now, he realizes there’s a story involved and he enjoys singing with an ensemble group. The hardest part is remembering all the songs, Brandon said.

The students have been practicing during music class since January. They have just begun to rehearse with the singers and pianist with Opera Cleveland.  

“I think they’ve really buckled down because they realized how much they’ve missed (with all of the recent bad weather) and they’re working even harder,” she said.

Henry said she’s particularly impressed with the boys’ interest. About 15 to 20 of them volunteered to play characters who surround Carmen and request she be their love.

“They have really been troopers along the way,” Henry said. “Our students are so willing to pretty much do anything.”

Henry explained why exposure to opera important for the youngsters.

“It gets them a feeling or a sense of what culture is other than the music they hear on the radio,” she said.