UPDATE: Maestro James Conlon will be conducting both performances of Brundibár.
One of our beloved Opera Camp’s teaching artists, Judy Johnson, started performing at the age of eight. She sang in church, studied voice in high school and college, and then worked as an actress in Los Angeles. In 2014, she loved her life as an actress, but realized something was missing. After a life spent performing, Johnson wanted to give back to her community in another way.
That desire combined with her love of opera led her to become an LA Opera teaching artist.
Her first role with LA Opera was as Assistant Director for last year’s Opera Camp production of Then I Stood Up. Her enthusiasm for the work and her passion for teaching our campers shines through.
In the camp, Johnson (and her fellow teaching artists) help kids learn about opera – the artistry, the production, the skills. Along with rehearsing the opera, the campers (ages 9-17) explore the important social issues depicted in these operas.
“Watching these young kids embody their characters and perform beautifully brought me to tears,” recalls Johnson, who has returned to assistant direct this year’s production of Brundibár.
Brundibár is a children’s opera by Hans Krása and Adolf Hoffmeister. This piece is known for being performed by children imprisoned in the Nazi concentration camp at Terezín.
Throughout the rehearsal process, Johnson helps kids find their characters.
“I talk to the kids about their intention,” says Johnson. “I ask them, ‘Why are you singing this right now? Why are you telling us this information right at this moment? What are you trying to convey?’”
Johnson also teaches the kids about movement and how the way they stand can change the message they are trying to deliver to the audience.
“The body supports the sound you make. So, I ask the kids, ‘Where does your intention live in the body? How do you stand? What message does your stance deliver to the audience?”
While Johnson says that this idea of intention is easier to teach to the older kids, she does see the younger kids begin to understand as everyone gets deeper into the rehearsal process.
“Watching a kid have that ‘a-ha’ moment and realize why they’re saying something…that’s the real thing,” says Johnson
She continues, “It’s important for kids to learn and express themselves emotionally through music. It’s a gift to be part of that through my work at LA Opera.”
To see Johnson’s work play out and our campers in action, reserve tickets to a free performance of Brundibár. The opera will be performed on August 5 at Barnsdall Gallery Theatre in Hollywood.
To learn how you can work with LA Opera’s EduCom team, click here.LA Opera is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to the greater good.