When we think of opera, you may think of elaborate stage performances like The Marriage of Figaro, or Madame Butterfly and you may not immediately think of opera as a kids’ activity. However, when I sat down with Keith Wolfe, General Director at Opera Birmingham, he shared that not only is opera a great activity for aspiring musicians, there are five key ways families, and particularly young aspiring singers, can engage with the opera community right here in Birmingham.
1. Take voice lessons or be in your chorus at school.
“Music study helps with school and not just voice study. The discipline to be in a chorus will help with study skills and personal confidence.” There’s also the Birmingham Boys Choir and Birmingham Girls Choir. If you studied opera in school but have lost touch, Opera Birmingham has a chorus local students and professionals who enjoyed music but may have gone into other careers can plug in with.
2. Sing for fun!
“I believe that the voice is the only instrument everyone has and can enjoy, and anyone can sing for fun!” Whether it’s the latest ballad from the radio or old time favorites you enjoy in your family, one of the best ways to enjoy music is to dive right in and sing!
3. Come see a performance.
No worries if you don’t speak a foreign language or aren’t familiar with the art. All productions at Opera Birmingham are introduced at the beginning by an expert who gives the audience an explanation of the show they are about to see. During the performance itself, captions are provided inside the theater so that patrons can easily follow the action on stage, whether or not they speak the language in which the opera is being performed. Opera Birmingham will be offering The Tragedy of Carmen later this month, as well as Romeo and Juliet in March. Both productions are powerful dramas that delight and entertain from the stage, but when their existing appeal is combined with the beauty of the opera format, the result is a truly powerful theater experience. You can find out more and purchase tickets for those productions here.
Opera Birmingham introduces their shows with preview events, which are open to the public. These previews are easy ways to get introduced to opera, complete with sample performances from the stars of the show, when you want a taste of opera but aren’t looking to commit to a full production.
4. Be a supernumerary.
“These are basically like extras in a movie. Waiters, sword carriers, and other types of things. There are opportunities for people who don’t have singing experience but want to engage with opera in general; or when you want to explore this medium, a great way to do that is to connect as supers.” If you’re interested in being a background player in a stage production at Opera Birmingham, here’s what Keith had to say about applying for that: “Regarding the supers (extras) for our operas, we don’t have a specific form to fill out, but if someone is interested, they can send a message to us at [email protected] and we’ll add them to our contact list. (Our needs vary year to year depending on the specific shows.) When we do need any supers, or have other things like auditions, etc., we always post those on our social media outlets, so that is the main way to stay up to date on ways to be involved.”
5. Follow Opera Birmingham on YouTube! (and Facebook!)
“We are pushing out information about opera — like the highest note ever sang — on our Facebook and YouTube channels, so with the internet there are videos and other information there which help you learn more.” Opera Birmingham’s YouTube channel is a great place to listen to samples of operatic performances, they let you know about their upcoming events on Twitter, and their Facebook page is a great way to find out where Opera Birmingham will be in and around Birmingham so you can connect with them or get involved.
Opera Birmingham is actively engaged in the Birmingham community helping to bring art, theater, and powerful conversations to our beautiful city. Coming soon, they will be offering family events designed to help families with children engage in opera through shorter, more condensed performances that allow children and beginners alike to engage with the medium in a more familiar format. Be sure to follow Opera Birmingham at the links included here to be the first to know about those great upcoming events.
It was truly a pleasure to speak with Keith Wolfe and to learn about all they are doing in Birmingham for theater and the arts. I will be sitting front and center at their production of Romeo and Juliet in March and I hope to see you there!
A preview version of the interview with Keith Wolfe along with a free download of the 12 Shakespeare Plays Most Often Adapted to Opera is available for free at www.cassidycash.com and the entire interview, including Keith’s favorite Shakespeare performances, is available to That Shakespeare Girl members at www.patreon.com/thatshakespearegirl.