Ever wondered how children get the “opera bug”? For 10 year-old Jesse McBride, it all started with a visit to his school by LA Opera. In 2017, LA Opera brought their Elementary In-School Opera program to Rockdale Elementary, where Jesse attended 4th grade. For 5 weeks, he and his classmates worked to learn their roles as the chorus in The Legend of Cannery Row, culminating in a performance for their fellow students and families.
Although Jesse had performed in musicals before, this “really introduced him to the idea of opera,” says his mother, Norma McBride. When the school principal suggested he audition for LA Opera’s summer Opera Camp, Jesse decided to go for it.
“When I went in to audition it was really quite fun,” said Jesse. “They asked me sing ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’ in harmony. I didn’t know the words so I just sang the tune.”
Following his audition, he was cast as Little Jo in Brundibár, that summer’s production. He was very excited to get training and learn more about opera.
“I didn’t know what a libretto was and I had to learn to read a score.” Jesse said.
He also loved the blocking rehearsals at the end of the day, where they got to see all of the work on music and performance come together. When it came to performance time, Jesse had a wonderful time but said his “most favorite part was meeting Maestro Conlon!” James Conlon, LA Opera’s Richard Seaver Music Director, attended the Opera Camp performances and met with the campers after the show. “He told me Jesse was really talented,” says Norma.
Then, a few weeks after Opera Camp, LA Opera called and said Maestro Conlon would love for Jesse to be a part of their upcoming production of Carmen.
“I was so blessed to be in the opera,” says Jesse. He was a child supernumerary and had a scene where he broke from the crowd and ran to kiss Carmen’s hand. He stated that he was nervous because he knew everyone would be staring at him. But then that nervousness went away.
“It was like when your first tooth falls out, just exciting!” Jeese said.
What’s next for Jesse? Playing Winthrop in The Music Man followed by another summer of Opera Camp.
“I hope I get in, that would make me happy,” Jesse said.
Interested in Opera Camp? Click here for more information.LA Opera is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to the greater good.