The Washington National Opera sponsored a special event yesterday morning, a "Look-In" program on Gershwin's Porgy and Bess for children. With your ticket, you receive a free commentary CD with excerpts from the opera and a little study guide. When Mini-Critic and I walked into the Kennedy Center Opera House – his first visit ever – it was pleasingly full, if not to capacity, of well-behaved children and their parents. Here in Washington, I am proud to say, we are doing what we can to get young people interested in opera and classical music. We all need to do more.
Mini-Critic's musical obsession is the violin, which he is going to start learning in earnest this coming winter. We have appeased him so far with a very nice toy violin, which he has been good about treating carefully, like a real instrument, but he assures us that he is ready to receive his real violin this winter for Christmas. So, in the few minutes we had before the program started, we had to walk down to the edge of the pit to peer in at the orchestra and count violinists. He was so dazzled by the bright star-like lights on the ceiling that, when they dimmed out for the program to begin, he remarked in the growing silence, "It's getting dark!" This was something he had not experienced before, because in previous children's performances we have attended, the lights have not gone fully dark.
Summer Opera: Mini-Critic Hears Brundibár (August 14, 2005)
Family Weekend at the National Gallery (May 22, 2005)
Kinderkonzert at the Kennedy Center (May 8, 2005)
Cunning Little Vixen in Berlin: Follow-Up (February 3, 2005)
Porgy and Bess, with all of the drugs, gambling, sex, and violence, would not be my first choice as an opera that is truly appropriate for children. As expected, most of the opera's rougher episodes were omitted, mentioned only in Ms. Bunyan's narration, if at all. We were treated to part of Porgy's banjo-sporting aria "I Got Plenty o' Nuttin," with star baritone Gordon Hawkins, and part of the exquisite love duet "Bess, You Is My Woman Now," with Indira Mahajan as Bess. For a section of Sportin' Life's "It Ain't Necessarily So," we heard not cast member Jermaine Smith but another talented singer, whose name I missed. Mini-Critic also very much enjoyed seeing Francesca Zambello's beautiful set, with a brief explanation of the scrim and lighting system. Sadly, if understandably, there were no choral numbers, which is too bad because Mini-Critic would have enjoyed seeing the children in the cast perform.
If you want to take your little classical music fan to a concert in Washington this fall, check out our schedule of Classical Music for Children, Fall 2005. The next event for Mini-Critic is the much-anticipated appearance of the Salzburger Marionettentheater on Tuesday in the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater. That performance is apparently sold out, but there are still tickets available for the marionnette version of Don Giovanni on Wednesday, November 9. Talk about inappropriate for children.