Opera comes to Zephyr Cove
When Kaye Vibe asked how many students in her first-grade class knew the German play “Hansel and Gretel,” about half raised their hands. A majority of the class of 17 students recalled how birds ate the bread crumbs that Hansel and Gretel laid on the trail to find their way back from the forest. Other details were difficult to grasp.
On Wednesday, Zephyr Cove Elementary School experienced the story firsthand when the Nevada Opera Studio performed the Engelbert Humperdinck Opera of Hansel and Gretel in the school’s gymnasium.
During the play, children stretched their backs and strained their necks to see the four actors with powerful voices. Hansel and Gretel, while lost and hungry in the imaginary forest, would point to unseen fireflies and unreal ghosts. The children would snap their heads in the direction of the extended finger, but found nothing. Then they would snap their heads again.
Erin Hardy sat in the audience with a smile. He said he’s heard opera singing before at Christmas, and when he saw the movie version of the opera a couple years ago.
“I like the singing the best,” said Hardy, 9. “I always like singing and music.”
Henry Halkyard, 6, sat closer to the front. The first-grader propped himself up on his haunches during most of the play. His grin showed a row of budding teeth.
“I liked it when the witch came out,” he said. “I guess I laughed for the whole thing because it was really funny.”
Halkyard said he “kinda’ knew” the plot of the opera.
Kathleen Kimmel, the education/outreach director for the Nevada Opera Studio, said the cast performs 60 shows, including 50 schools, during a two-month tour of Nevada. The studio has performed for over 200,000 school children since it first began seven years ago.
Susan Pauline Lewis, who played Gretel, wore a red and white dress. Performing for children raises her intensity level, she said.
“We have to be more energetic,” she said, while packing pieces from the set. “We can come right from the show and sing to them as opposed to a regular opera where there’s sort of a third wall where we’re in our own scene.”
LauraCate Moore, who played Hansel, thinks she could have been playing for future opera singers. An opera troupe performed for her elementary school for a week in Atlanta, Ga., and she never forgot it.
“It gives the children an opportunity to see live theater and live music and be exposed to the most complete art form, which is opera,” Kimmel said. “It’s a very interactive show.”
She was referring to the 10 students who were angel and gingerbread extras for the performance.
Maddi Feldman, 10, was one of the angels. She said she couldn’t hear the singing since she sat with the other angels next to the piano. But she still used her own vocal chords.
“We did a little singing at the end,” she said. “It was fun. We learned the song in a half hour before the play.”
From the applause at the end, it seemed no one in the audience minded.