Tulsa schoolkids learn about opera
BY ANDREA EGER World Staff Writer
Thursday, November 15, 2012
11/15/12 at 7:52 AM
In a gymnasium more likely to be rattling with the sounds of bouncing balls and playing children, Alexander Elliott's deep baritone filled the ears and consciousness of third-, fourth- and fifth-graders at Zarrow International School.
Elliott played the father of the rat in the title role of "Mooch the Messy," a stage work written especially to introduce a younger audience to the world of opera and performed Wednesday by Tulsa Opera studio artists.
"How do you go so low - than your normal voice?" inquired the first student chosen to ask a question after the performance ended.
Ending their monthlong Opera on Tour initiative, Elliott, tenor Zac Engle and pianist Whitney Hollis have reached more than 30,000 students in more than 80 schools throughout Oklahoma and neighboring states.
Aaron Beck, director of education and outreach for Tulsa Opera, said it was nothing new to see students so rapt by the performance.
"The children were completely glued to it the whole time," he said. "A lot of people think that because this is a big city, there would be a lot more opportunities for children to see something like this than there would be in rural parts of the state. But at a lot of the schools we go to, this is just as unfamiliar to them."
Hearing opera, let alone seeing it performed live, might have been a novelty for nearly everyone in the audience at Zarrow, but these young, professional performers quickly earned some new fans.
"I learned that if you listen to something one time, you might find something new you like," said third-grader Raigon Bradford, who along with his classmate Nathan Uy had laughed and smiled on the front row throughout the 30-minute show.
Based on a 1976 children's book by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat, "Mooch the Messy" tells the story of Mooch, a rat in Boston who prefers an untidy hole to call home.
A visit from his father forces him to learn about neatness and responsibility and, ultimately, about being true to himself.
Addison Whitaker, also in the third grade, sat as high as she could on her knees to see Mooch reluctantly tidy up his clothes and shoes during his father's visit only to dump them right back onto the floor the minute the visit was over.
"I thought it was really fun," she said. "I had never been to an opera before. It's kind of like a play that has music and no talking."
Addison said she could relate to the story because she is "kind of both" messy and tidy.
She said she was going to go home and tell her family "what Mooch was doing before and after his father was there. It was kind of funny."
Music teacher Jan Davis specifically prepared the students for Wednesday's opera performance, but she tries to expose all Zarrow students to all forms of musical performance style.
"I like to use YouTube clips, such as 'Porgy and Bess' so I can bring big performances right into my classroom," she said.
Original Print Headline: Opera tour de farce
Andrea Eger 918-581-8470
Zarrow International School Principal Jania Wester (left) makes a cameo appearance as a mail carrier while tenor Zac Engle plays Mooch during a performance of children's opera "Mooch the Messy" for students at Zarrow on Wednesday. The opera was performed by members of the Tulsa Opera as part of their annual statewide Opera on Tour program. JOHN CLANTON/Tulsa World
Students ask questions of performers Zac Engle and Alexander Elliott after the Tulsa Opera performance Wednesday. JOHN CLANTON/Tulsa World
Third-grader Joseph Ijams appears to enjoy the children's opera "Mooch the Messy" with other students. JOHN CLANTON/Tulsa World
Zac Engle (left) plays Mooch and Alexander Elliott plays Mooch's father during a performance of "Mooch the Messy" on Wednesday. The music for the children's opera was written by Marcus DeLoach, and the libretto was written by DeLoach and Marjorie Weinman Sharmat, who wrote the 1976 children's book by the same name. JOHN CLANTON/Tulsa World
Zac Engle portrays Mooch, a messy rat, during a Tulsa Opera performance at Zarrow International School on Wednesday. JOHN CLANTON/Tulsa World