The performing arts world in Toronto is huge even for the littlest patrons. With so many organizations offering family-friendly options – the Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s Young People’s Concerts, the annual Ross Petty holiday production and Solar Stage Children’s Theatre to name a few – we are never at a loss for news ways to introduce the kids to the arts.
And now, our first Opera. We can’t wait.
Every year the Canadian Opera Company presents Opera for Families at the Joey and Toby Tanenbaum Opera Centre, as part of their Glencore Ensemble Studio School Tour. This year audiences full of bigs and smalls will enjoy The Bremen Town Musicians and Operation Superpower. This Saturday, November 14 is a one-time public show. (Tickets still available.)
“The magic of opera is that it takes the best of every type of art – music, drama, and visual arts – and combines them to create a very special and playful way of storytelling,” explains Katherine Semcesen, Associate Director of Education and Outreach at the Canadian Opera Company.
She says that families can expect all the same aspects of a mainstage performance — “singing of the highest caliber, transformative and thoughtful sets, professionally designed and made costumes, a dose of some magical storytelling – but the experience is tailored to the interests, needs, and imaginations of young people.”
For the COC, “young people are an audience right now” and they have chosen operas written by contemporary composers with children in mind (instead of presenting adaptations of existing, large operatic works) of stories based on topics and themes that are child-friendly.
This Saturday’s performances kick off the annual Glencore Ensemble Studio School Tour, a program that has been presenting operas to schools across Ontario for 30-plus years. From November 9 to December 6, 2015 around 16,000 students at schools in communities such as Sudbury, Stratford, Brantford, Tweed and across the GTA will experience live opera performed by professional opera singers.
Getting there: Opera for Families takes place in the Imperial Oil Opera Theatre at the Joey and Toby Tanenbaum Opera Centre (227 Front St. E.) Street parking is $2.25/hr in the immediate area and Green P parking lots are $4/hr. On TTC, the 504 King St streetcar and the 172 Bus (from King or St. Andrew Station.)
Low-down: Each performance is 45 minutes and performed in English. There is a 15-minute Q&A with the cast and crew at the end of each show. The Bremen Town Musicians (11 a.m. start) is based on a fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm that tells the story of a donkey, a dog, a cat and a rooster who embark on a journey to find freedom and start a new life after being mistreated by their owners. (Best suited for kids four to 12.) The new COC production Operation Superpower (1:30 p.m. start) is an interactive adventure empowers young audiences to identify their own strengths and character traits, or “superpowers,” and encourages them to nurture these powers and use them to help others. (Suitable for kids four to eight.)
Tickets: $15 for adults and $10 for children. You can purchase by phone (416.363.8231) or online.
Pre-performance Hands-On Activities: The hands-on activities begin an hour before each performance. Before The Bremen Town Musicians, composer Dean Burry will lead an interactive workshop introducing children to the music and characters they’ll meet on the way to Bremen. In advance of Operation Superpower, artist educator Sarah Joy Bennett will help children learn how to find their own superpower in an interactive and engaging movement and drama workshop that gives participants time to explore and share their own talents (or superpowers!)
More Opera for Children: The COC offers various entry points for people of all ages to explore opera with summer opera camps, after school programs for children, opera workshops for schools, professional development for educators who are looking to implement opera into their classroom activities, and free programs for young adults.
In the hood: Tie the outing in with a visit to St. Lawrence Market about 4 blocks west or head southwest for outdoor play at David Crombie Park. To the southeast, take in the Distillery District, Underpass Park and Corktown Common. South along Sherbourne you’ll find Sherbourne Common and Sugar Beach.