How do you expose children to opera? That is a question that has remained a conundrum to many industry workers and companies.
However for Cyndie Berthezene, the director of Time In Kids, that question is quite easily solved. Her answer is bringing opera’s biggest stars right to the kids. And on Tuesday, Feb. 28, she had her third opera star visit kids who come from some of the most underdeveloped neighborhoods in New York City. The star was baritone David Bizic, who hails from Serbia and is currently performing in Massesent’s “Werther” at the Metropolitan Opera.
Before the baritone worked with the kids Berthezene had the children guess Bizic’s name and guess what he did for a living.
After this introductory game, Bizic took the reigns of the class and did multiple exercises with them. First, he had them warm up humming to the word pizza, which they had picked as their favorite food and after they started singing to the word pizza in full-throttled voices.
Then Berthezene told the kids about Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro,” from which Bizic sang two arias, the famous “Non Piu Andrai” and “Se Vuol Ballare.” As he performed the arias he marched with the kids and danced with them. The kids, who were all excited, laughing and cheering him on, then got a surprise guest. The rising star soprano Giuliana Gianfaldoni, who was visiting New York, also performed with Bizic in the opera’s first duet and the two improvised a complete scene.
The moment was important for Bizic because for him education is crucial for a child’s development.
“Every kid is born innocent and pure and opera as an art form is very pure because it combines all the arts that exist. It combines the visual, the acting, painting and music. For kids to be exposed to such an amalgam of emotions and feelings can only help them develop their personality. No matter where the kid comes from, if it’s from the difficult family, school or country it doesn’t matter, he always reacts the same to opera. It gives them some ideas to think about and process in their little-inexperienced mind that can be developed to become better,” he told OperaWire after the event.
Regarding his Mozartian selection he noted, “Mozart is great for kids because his harmonies and lines are quite simple. If you take any Mozart line it’s so simple that it talks to everybody. You do not have to be musically trained and you respond to Mozart instantly. There is a thing called the Mozart effect. You can play Mozart to a pregnant mother and it will better develop better brain connections because his music is in sync with nature.”
When Bizic finished performing for the kids, he asked them whether any wanted to be an opera singer in the future. He was met with a rather exuberant “yes” from many parts of the room. As they said their goodbyes, the children ecstatically moved toward the baritone, overwhelming him with joy.
Time In Kids is next scheduled to have a benefit event featuring Alice Coote and Brian Jagde.