2 May 2012

Learning about Opera (Music Appreciation)

A few months ago while browsing through a CD shop, I came across Das Rheingold, an opera by Richard Wagner. I decided to purchase it just to add to my pathetic collection of music, and also to watch since I don't get to go to concerts very much nowadays. The  version sold at the shop was one directed by Otto Schenk, and this review very much sums it up,  "

Traditional staging of Das Rheingold 

Otto Schenk's version of Das Rheingold may appeal to fresh Wagnerians who just want to try and understand what is happening. For advanced opera goers, this DVD probably will cause a loooong yawn. Nothing is very exciting on this DVD. The singers are OK, James Levine is faster than could be feared, the costumes and set pieces unimaginative."

Here's an excerpt from the Vcd.

This is an opera that lasts about two and a half hours, without intermission and entirely in German. With all this, I predicted that my children would not last through the show and would probably walk off by the first quarter.

To cut a long story short, there were yawns among some of us, but Jo surprised me. She sat down, watched the entire thing TWICE in a day. Then she watched it again the next day. And  now she's watched it 4 times. Just today, I was so tickled when from downstairs I heard cheers of encore and applause coming from my little one upstairs after watching the Rheingold again. I thought to myself, "This is Ridiculous! To watch this opera so many times through and still clap like that!"

You know golden moments, where a child is inspired to learn? This was one of it.  I decided to use her current fascination as an opportunity to do some music appreciation with her. So today, we sat down and discussed stuff like the definition of Opera, Libretto, Leitmotif, Scenes, Recitative, Aria and also we also learnt a little bit about Richard Wagner.

While discussing motifs from Das Rheingold, we used this site Synopsis with musical excerpts, where we listened to just some of the more distinct motifs, and discussed how music can represent characters, how music can carry different moods and colours, and how it is important in opera.

We also discussed the plot, scenes and characters. When giving her a quiz (while I peeked through the translation of the libretto), I was surprised by her knowledge. She knew the story better than me, was able to describe the scenes and characters quite accurately.

Having discussed the Rheingold, we searched online for interesting opera sites. WE found this very interesting interactive site that has an activity to help children learn more about opera.

 This interactive game is so wonderful in that, it has great music and singing. It also has teaching notes to help children understand the role of music in opera, and to help focus listening. There are also buttons to click to help decide on costumes, props, choreography, lighting, movement etc. 
Here Jo had to decorate the witch's cottage, and then drag the knob to determine how fast the witch should pop up.
She really enjoyed the activity a lot and also in doing so, learnt more about what goes on in directing an opera. (Go ahead, click on link, and let your child enjoy it!)

The web also provides follow up activities for children such as the cut out below, which can be used for creating ones own puppet show.

As I write, Jo's busy cutting and sticking it together. We will be making a puppet version of an opera tomorrow!

We also printed the following, (just an excerpt here) and discussed questions.

and we also explored additional links on the site such as  Forms of Music .

I can see this lesson going in many directions, from staging her own puppet opera tomorrow, to writing librettos, to possibly composing motives, learning more about Wager, Romanticism, the orchestra, history, Germany and of course, other operas.

Jo's remarks at the end of it all, "I loved the quiz about Das Rheingold, and I love making my own opera. Let's learn more tomorrow mum!"


gail said...

Oh, be still my soul! It gives me such joy that our Jo loves opera!!!

Mini Mocha said...

This is great, thanks for the links, I have never really got into opera but will have a look at this. We are doing Peter and the wolf study for music next and a puppet show also, they are fun to do with music.

Martha said...

Hey G, I hope you will let lil Bells try the opera link, m sure she will love it.
Welcome Mocha. We love Peter and the wolf too! And spent lots a time dramatizing it, Definitely an all time favorite.

Carolyn (Lil' Dahling) said...

I'm really amazed with you.

Can I send my kids to learn anything from you? Hehe.

Martha said...

haha..Carolyn, you're doin a great job with your kids already. :)

eddiesherene said...

Wow ... You are magnificent!


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