Did you know that Vancouver Opera has a highly interactive program for elementary school children called Project Opera? The magic of opera comes to the classroom, and kids participate in creating an opera of their own. Inspiration can come from anywhere – they can retell the story of a novel they read in class, delve into the experiences of Canadian history, or explain the water cycle through song – anything and everything can be explored through opera!
This December, we brought a five-session version to Grandview Elementary School. With the help of Soula, the Grade 4/5 classroom teacher, we worked with kids with special needs designations and/or challenges with self-regulation. In order to support the students in their particular needs, we shortened the program to five sessions spread over two-and-a-half weeks.
“The goal was to provide the students with the tools to create their own original opera in the format of three dramatic scenes and an aria,” said Eve-Lyn (Evie) de la Haye, our Senior Teaching Artist. “Within this time frame we were able to discuss the themes of our inspiration story (The Promise, by Nicola Davies), and engage in conversation about the emotional journey of the main character. We wrote rhyming couplets which became the lyrics for our aria, and then the students improvised melodies to the lyrics they had written. We then took their melodic material and formed the song.”
“We used a combination of Tableaux (frozen pictures) and short scenes with dialogue to demonstrate three scenes in the story. We used narration to move the story along. Every student had a chance to either narrate or act in the scenes, and they sang the aria all together with some expressive movement that they came up with to help convey the emotion of the song.”
I’m letting go of all the pain
The seeds will grow with the sun and rain
They feel like a gift from trees
I will plant them in threes
The students showed considerable improvement in their focus as they presented the final performance the opera. They were able to notice when it was their cue to sing, speak, or move, and worked collaboratively and cooperatively during the dress rehearsal and presentation. “It felt like a real accomplishment and they were all very proud to show off what they created to their family and special guests,” said Evie. “They were all smiles at the final bow and enjoyed all of the well-deserved applause!”
If you’d like to support Project Opera, and other educational applications of opera, please click here to read more about our donor programs.