Following up my Thing One post on May 19 about Opera Ed To Go, one of two long-term projects on OperaGene that seek reader contributions, I now present Thing Two, a project aimed at helping parents who want to introduce their kids to opera. A colleague at work told me her young daughter had enjoyed watching an DVD recording of The Magic Flute that I had loaned to her. Yes, not only do adults sometimes like this stuff, but occasionally a kid will too. But, it made me think. What are some other operas I could recommend that would be good for kids? Operas tend to portray grand passions and may not be age appropriate. That raises other questions as well: at what age should kids be introduced to opera? How best to introduce opera to them? I am definitely not able to answer those questions. Anne Midgette, classical music critic, for the Washington Post wrote an article published on January 9 for this topic titled, “How a classical critic introduced her child to music (not very well),”in which she had to conclude that she had thoughts and experiences, but not answers; she did recommend a classic music CD for kids titled, “A House Filled with Music,” by Margret and Rolf Rettich and a book called, “Welcome to the Symphony.” CD music and book sellers tend to carry a few items directed to kids, but it is helpful to get an expert recommendation. She expects her article to be the first in a series on the topic over time; keep an eye out for others.
I found a few other sources that offer advice. One I found with reasonable suggestions you can implement was a piece on the Opera Teen blog, called, “Ten Easy Ways to Get Kids Into Opera.” Sadly, the author rightly points out that with what kids are watching on television these days, age appropriate is not the concern it used to be. The Guardian published an article titled, “The 10 Best: Operas for Children,” which lists mainly operas specifically written for children; I have to admit that I am not familiar with many of these. I would like to make a modest proposal of mine: Tell your kids that opera and classical music are absolutely not to be listened to until they are grown up. I predict you will find them taking headphones to the bathroom and locking the door; older kids will head out with claims they are going to a rock concert, but in fact head down to the Kennedy Center. I am joking, but introducing things to kids is good, trying to force it not so much. People like what they like even as kids, but have hope, that may very well change over time. My daughters rarely listen to classical music, but my son rarely listens to anything else. My interest in opera started only about five years ago. Genetics plays a role as well as parental influence, and gene expression patterns can change over time.
I suspect that for musical families this is not really an issue, with music being a part of their kids lives early on. However, I wonder what the experience of musical families is with kids and opera specifically. My sister asked someone who played music for her church and was a fine musician if she liked opera, and her response was an emphatic no way. Not even all musicians like opera.
Now to get back to the “For Parents” section of the website: the goal for this section is simply to offer parents links to useful materials and advice when they want to introduce their kids to opera. I will definitely leave the parenting up to the parents! I do, however, seek reader input and contributions for the page, especially things that have worked for them. All suggestions of good operas for kids and/or introductory materials will be much appreciated.