Melanie Everard, was an opera-skeptic. “I was much more than a skeptic, I disliked opera intensely.” A surprising sentiment from a music teacher, and it made her an unlikely candidate to participate in an educator’s workshop conducted by the Metropolitan Opera.
But when the Colonial Theatre in Keene invited her to take part in the week-long workshop in New York City, she accepted and went to the big apple. Once there a curious thing happened “Meeting everybody and being there live and finally understanding what opera was all about completely changed my mind about it.”
She became not just a fan, but a missionary. When she returned to Keene she started "Opera-tunity" a new kids-opera club for the Colonial. “We called the club ‘Mozart Loves Pizza,’ the idea was to meet each Friday afternoon and eat pizza.” She admits the pizza was a pretty cheap lure, but it worked. Perhaps it was appropriate that a would-be Pied Piper brought the first meeting of the club to order with a showing of Mozart’s “Magic Flute.”
“I was drawn to the idea of watching some kind of movie, and the pizza of course,” laughs 12 year old Julia Sapeta. She might have come for the food, but she stayed for the music, “after that I just really started to love opera.”
But the club is more than just dinner and a show. The Metropolitan Opera provides curriculum to aid discussions, and even makes stars of their shows available for online chats with the kids.
“My favorite thing about opera would have to the beautiful vibrato,” says Sapeta. “And all the beautiful Italian and German in these operas, any kind of language is really pretty and that’s what got me hooked on opera.”
Last year, Everard and the club composed their own opera based on Ray Bradbury’s. “In the show, the government is taking away all music, art, opera and this group of young musicians decides that the only way to save opera is for them to memorize opera.” The show was essentially a medley of famous arias and favorites picked out by the kids. “We performed at the Colonial Theatre and it was packed. It was really fun.”
Says Everard, “The Metropolitan Opera and the Colonial Theatre have given a gift to my kids. We have these children who are loving opera, who are completely invested in opera and it is priceless.
Hear Sapeta sing a selection from the "Libiamo ne'lieti calici" aria from Verdi’s La Traviata.