Children’s School opens opera treasure chest in weekly sessions

Treasure chests often hold beautiful items, and the Children’s School received not one, but two treasure chests full of jewels last Thursday.

“OK, what are we going to sing, everyone?” asked Chautauqua Opera intern Macie Van Norden.

“ ‘This is my Box!’ ” the class shouted.

“OK,” she said. “Sing along with me.”

Opera Guild member Nancy Seel turned on the stereo and the booming voice of a man blasted through the speakers singing Gian Carlo Menotti’s “This is my Box,” from Amahl and the Night Visitors.

The 3- and 4-year-olds from the purple, red and green rooms participated in the opera visit. Every Thursday, Van Norden visits the Children’s School and presents a different activity that teaches concepts of opera.

“We have all sorts of activities, but through the concept of opera,” she said. “I choose certain things from certain operas to teach them specifically about. This week was the treasure box. Last week, we talked about Cinderella, and a few weeks prior, we did a little introduction to Macbeth before the production.”

Before the children began dancing and singing to “This is my Box,” Van Norden presented two treasure chests — one orange and one blue. The children picked two sparkly star stickers, and they used one to decorate the treasure chest then kept the other for themselves.

After the exhausting chore of decorating, Van Norden asked what was in a treasure box. The children shouted out things such as gold, necklaces and rings.

She opened the treasure boxes and revealed an assortment of blue, pink and yellow jewels. The children each took a jewel and danced around to the song, guarding their treasure. After the activity, the classrooms were able to keep the treasure chests.

In an effort to continue the development of these classes, the lessons are interactive and offer a “kid appeal” to the world of opera, Seel said. Last year, the company launched this type of interaction.

“The opera has come to this school in two different ways,” Seel said. “For a number of years, there has been a representative of the opera company who comes here with Young Artists, and they do a demonstration on what an opera and an aria is, then they sing — it’s like a mini-recital.”