LA Opera has many programs to make sure that everyone has access to opera for little or no cost. Opera Tales is one of these programs. In partnership with the County of Los Angeles Public Library and with generous support provided by Los Angeles County Supervisors Don Knabe and Hilda Solis, LA Opera brings professional opera singers (or “opera pals”) to libraries around Los Angeles to perform musical moments from the most celebrated operas for families. Next month’s Figaro Opera Tales has the singers recounting tales from the entire Figaro Trilogy (Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro, and Corigliano’s The Ghosts of Versailles), as told by Pierre Beaumarchais.
“It’s a great environment for a first opera experience,” says soprano, Lisa Eden, who has performed in Opera Tales since 2012.
Leroy Villanueva (who has performed in Opera Tales since the program started in 2007 with special guest Doris Roberts) adds that it’s the perfect setting to introduce kids to and get them excited about opera, because it’s very personal. The kids sit on the floor close to the performers – sometimes even meandering onto the set. As a result, the singers are encouraged to interact with the kids in the audience, helping them become part of the story. “The script itself changes every single time. It’s not about what’s written on the page. We are constantly reacting to what we hear being said.”
The singers shared an example from Figaro Opera Tales of how the kids participate in searching for a book that has been misplaced at the beginning of the show. The singers ask if they know where the book is that will help them tell Figaro’s tales. Suddenly, all the kids point in different directions and shout, “It’s right there!” In a library setting, surrounded by a mountain of books, there is no shortage of possibilities for the kids to choose from. Ultimately, Beaumarchais (played by Villanueva) saves the day by making a grand entrance and producing the book. Tenor Ashley Faatoalia notes that many kids are still searching for the book halfway through the show. He says, “They are so invested that they want to tell us what’s going on. The interactive thing really excites them to be part of the show in an interesting way.”
Beyond interaction, what’s novel about Figaro Opera Tales is how the show joins three operas with completely different plots into a single story. When kids watch Figaro Opera Tales, they hear pieces from multiple operas, including The Ghosts of Versailles, which Faatoalia cites as his favorite part of the whole show. “Ghosts of Versailles is a piece that no other education program would probably touch for a children’s production,” says Faatoalia. “But this group found a way to adapt and excerpt it, so that kids can hear legitimate parts of it. It’s the music of the piece, but in a way that kids can relate too.”
Figaro Opera Tales goes on tour starting today. Villanueva, Eden and Faatoalia will join singer Melissa Treinkman and pianist Tally Tadmor throughout libraries in sharing a love of opera to kids throughout Los Angeles County. They might even succeed in finding Figaro’s book!
For more information and tour locations, click here.