Proving it’s never too early to introduce children to some culture, preschoolers from Gig Harbor Academy on Friday got a chance to visit the Seattle Opera at McCaw Hall.
“The people at the Seattle Opera have been so great about this,” said preschool teacher Diana Nold, noting this is the second year in a row students have visited the opera. “We’re excited.”
The Seattle Opera staff members were just as excited to have preschoolers from Gig Harbor Academy visiting them.
A group of 15 children, 13 parents and Nold made the trip to the Emerald City. The first stop was the rehearsal hall.
“This is where opera people practice — in this big ol’ room,” said Barbara Lynne Jamison, the youth programs manager.
She introduced the youngsters to some opera terminology such as “bravo” and “soprano” before she led the children in singing the “Happy Opera” song.
From there, Jamison explained a little bit about what opera is.
“Opera is about stories,” she said, “about telling stories.”
Those stories are told in the form of singing, often times in a language other than English.
Jamison told the children that the Seattle Opera’s production of La Cenerentola was Cinderella in Italian. Teaching Artist Claire Biringer then read the story of La Cenerentola — in English — to the kids.
Dancers dressed as rats figure prominently in La Cenerentola, so it was only fitting that the children got a chance to make their own rat hats.
“The rats in our opera have rat hats,” Biringer told the students, who got to experience a rat race of sorts by crossing the floor as fast as they could on their hands and feet.
Then it was time for a trip backstage to see some props and costumes.
“But do you think we’re allowed to touch them?” asked Jamison, to which the kids answered in unison: “No!”
“There are some things that are dangerous if you touch them,” she said, pointing specifically to ropes used to lift, suspend and lower items on and off stage as necessary.
“This is really important information,” she said.
With a community programs manager leading the way, the children got a chance to see performers’ lockers, various dressing rooms, the musicians’ lounge and the green room for those who are about to take the state.
And, yes, the walls were actually painted green.
Next was a chance to visit the pit, the below-stage area where the orchestra sits and plays.
Jamison said there are holes in the floor of the pit to cool the area off without letting enough air in to blow music pages off their stands. It also helps to keep dust and other pollutants to a minimum, she said.
The students also got a chance to see a special location called the quick-change room — an area where those who have to change costumes quickly go to do just that.
“It’s like a tent without a top,” Jamison said.
Everybody got a chance to walk out on the stage to conclude the tour.
“You got to see things people don’t normally see at an opera,” Jamison said. “So, thank you for coming. Thank you for being wonderful and learning about opera.”
“I think it was great,” said Kalli Ostner, who, along with her husband, Max, and 4-year-old son, Anders, made the field trip. “It’s great exposing kids to art.”
“It’s planting seeds,” she said. “That’s what I always say.”
Reporter Brett Davis can be reached at 253-358-4151 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter, @gateway_brett.