Pittsburgh Opera works to foster love of the art at Children’s School


Joseph and his teacher, Salem, dance their fingers to the music during an opera education program presented by Pittsburgh Opera Wednesday at
Children’s School. Photo by Greg Funka.

Leah Harrison | Staff Writer

At 11 a.m. Wednesday, Children’s School hosted Marilyn Egan for a morning of opera education. In an interactive presentation, Egan introduced the 5- and 6-year-olds to Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, saying opera is a way to tell a story.

As director of education at Pittsburgh Opera, Egan usually works with an older audience. Pittsburgh Opera’s education program disseminates information, teaching tools and materials to area teachers who then present their students with an early opera experience. The program was the first in a series of opera education for children sponsored by the Chautauqua Opera Guild, including an event on Bestor Plaza Sunday, July 29.

Pittsburgh Opera’s programs typically include an opera trunk — a large, wheeled case containing costumes — stage makeup and masks. Egan showed Children’s School the trunk, though it was not central to Wednesday’s program. The trunk will play a bigger part in the Opera Guild’s future children’s events.

Egan introduced some characters in The Barber of Seville, beginning with Count Almaviva. Children lip-synced to one of his arias, pretending to woo Rosina. They also pretended to conduct the orchestra. During Figaro’s solo, they listened for how busy he sounds. In Rosina’s aria, they pretended to sew her dress while listening for phrasing.

For crafts, kids cut out character figurines from the opera and taped them to a beaded necklace. When asked what part of the opera they wanted to listen to while crafting, they voted unanimously for the happy ending.

The Opera Education Program traveled to Boys’ and Girls’ Club Friday for a repeat performance.

“The kids got to take opera home with them today,” said Virginia DiPucci, a member of the Opera Guild who attended Wednesday’s event. “They gained an opera experience in a form they will remember and emulate. This is how you build audiences.”