Astounding Opera-Tune-ities

by Mackenzie Bailey and Natalie Gutierrez

Have you ever been to the opera?  It is Astounding!  We will share our experience starting with an Overture –
 Ridgeline Academy’s fourth-graders took a recent field trip to the Arizona Opera Center.  It was an afternoon filled with songs, stories, costumes and rehearsals.  The Center is located in Phoenix at 1636 N. Central Avenue in the Uptown Phoenix Arts District at the corner of Central Avenue and McDowell Road.   When we got there were greeted by Arizona Opera’s Caitie Quick.  Both Ms. Quick and Director of Education, Joshua Borths, coordinated our lovely afternoon.
First on the program were three arias. An aria is a long, accompanied song for a solo voice.
The first aria, written by Wolfgang Mozart, was sung by a man. The second aria was sung by a soprano named Rhea and the final aria by a mezzo-soprano named Erin. The soprano voice is the highest in range, while the mezzo-soprano sings in a somewhat lower musical register. “I liked when they sang in a group,” commented fourth-grader Rees Goodall, “and also when they did the solos.”
Students were smiling throughout the afternoon.  “We’re always happy to have students visit us at our opera center. So much work goes into putting these wonderful production on stage, and when we get to show a piece of that, we get a much deeper connection with our audiences,”  Caitie Quick shared.
We were also taught about opera etiquette, such as the appropriate times to applaud during an opera performance without interrupting the flow of the action.  We  learned that one calls out “Bravo!” to a male singer but “Brava!” to a female singer.  Additionally, all the elements that make up an opera were explained—characters, plots and emotional intensity.  Even though most operas performed today are in foreign languages, the audience can still understand the emotions  by the quality of the music, expressions and the acting.

Next, we were  given a tour of the costume and wardrobe studio.  Fourth-graders were delighted to actually see the costumers in action; they watched one seamstress measure fabric while two of her colleagues worked at sewing machines. Ridgeline fourth-grader, Jillian Koehne, said she really enjoyed the opera-tunity to see them put the outfits together.    It was an enriching experience.  “The performance becomes more meaningful when you see a performer nail those notes and remember how hard they had to work during rehearsal, or when you see a beautiful costume and can say you know about the work and skill required to put something like that together,” Ms. Quick added.

 For the grand finale, the visit was capped by attendance at a live rehearsal of Falstaff, Arizona Opera’s most recent production, based on a character of the same name in The Merry Wives of Windsor by Shakespeare.  Singers moved about the stage while singing and positioning themselves according to taped markers on the stage floor. The singers were accompanied by a single pianist; later rehearsals would involve a full orchestra.   We all had to stay very quiet because the room was large and even small sounds echoed, but had to be very quiet because the room was large and even small sounds echoed, but it was easy to be silent when surrounded by such magnificent vocalism.
Bravo to the Arizona Opera Center whose programs for educating the public about opera (Opera-tune-ities) include Opera at your School, Night at the Opera and pre- and post-performance talks.  For more information on performances and special events, visit www.azopera.org , where stories are worth singing.
On that note; to learn more about Ridgeline Academy – visit; www.ridgelineacademy.org
 NOTED by Mackenzie Bailey and Natalie Gutierrez – fourth-graders at Ridgeline Academy
and the Fourth Grade Teachers;
Michael Merloe, Diane White and Stacey Lane