Opera for Kids: The Elixir of Love

On May 26th we had a delightful program presented by Orange County Opera and sponsored by the Pasadena Opera Guild, giving kids a hilarious introduction to opera by performing a version of Donizetti’s Elixir of Love in English. It was, to my knowledge, our first-ever opera program at Pasadena Public Library. The performers were professional singers who could also really “ham” up their roles for the kids. It was fun, a light romantic comedy about a boy who buys an elixir from a peddler that will supposedly make this girl fall in love with him, all while she is agreeing to marry a soldier just to make him jealous. If you’ve ever seen the musical Oklahoma, it’s a lot like that, except much tamer even than that. Mainly the program was about introducing kids to some of the concepts of opera music, using this Donizetti opera as kind of a frame story. You root for the tenor and soprano (high male and high female voices), which are often the “good guys,” and not for the basso (low male voice) because he’s the “bad guy.” The alto (lower female voice) and baritone (middle male voice) are characters who are older and often have parts that provide extra comic relief. There were a lot of really little kids in the audience, and the actors made everything super funny so that even the youngest kids could laugh and have a good time with it.

There was a great Q&A afterward giving kids more information about the singers’ backgrounds and education, and how to get started as an aspiring opera singer. After the performance and Q&A, we did a “Mad Libs” songwriting activity as a big group, where I took word suggestions from the audience and put them into a song that made no sense!

Then the kids were given a challenge: each STEAM handout they completed earned them a ticket for a raffle. One taught them about the mathematical value of different musical notes, writing notes to fit in a four-four-time measure, while another handout challenged kids to design a stage with specific measurements for doors, tables, and other props, and another invited kids to design a costume for the main character. Kids were given a raffle ticket for each handout and at the end we drew winners for a few prizes such as books, a board game, and a couple of toys.

A parent named Katie sent me this amazing review:

“Clare, age 7, was glued to her seat watching her first opera, the Elixir of Love, on Saturday. The soprano was her favorite character “because she likes to read, like me.” It was great to see her learn about opera, singing, and critically think about set design, costume design, and music with the STEM activities afterward. I just wish more children could have been introduced to the art form of opera in such a pleasant way.”

I couldn’t agree more–I loved OC Opera‘s delightful way of introducing kids to opera, and I hope we can have them return one day! Many thanks to the Pasadena Opera Guild for providing the library with this amazing program!

AnnMarie Hurtado

I'm a youth services librarian working in the Children's Room at the Pasadena Central Library. I purchase juvenile nonfiction books for all sites, juvenile Spanish books for all sites, and juvenile DVDs for the Central Library. I do a lot of programs with school-age kids, including Lucha Libros, writing workshops, STEAM Careers in Pasadena, and other STEAM/science programs. I teach 1-2 sessions of Infant/Toddler Storytime each year. I love what I do, working with kids of all ages to inspire them to learn and use their curiosity and imaginations. Outside of my work at the library, I am also the author of a book, 36 Workshops to Get Kids Writing: From Aliens to Zebras.

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