School Children Experience Opera at Peabody Reply

Megan Heavner picks audience members to perform in Papageno.

Peabody Opera Outreach hosted several Baltimore area schools – some as far away as Annapolis and one from the Mount Vernon neighborhood – for its performance of Papageno at Peabody’s Miriam A. Friedberg Hall on Friday, April 7. Papageno is a shortened and English version of Mozart’s The Magic Flute from the point of view of Papageno.

Outreach coordinator and master’s voice student Megan Heavner began the show with an introduction and a request for volunteer performers from the over 250 students from Sussex Elementary, Bates Middle School, The Wilkes School, and Windsor Farm Elementary. A critical part of this performance is the involvement and engagement of the audience. Megan explains that every time they speak about “The one who’s never seen,” they should loudly stomp their feet.  The students comply enthusiastically.

Our guide for this performance is the character of Papageno, a clumsy, comical character who is a birdcatcher and is dressed as a crazed Baltimore Orioles baseball fan. He wears bright orange high top sneakers, knee high black and white striped socks, a pin striped vest where the back looks like an Orioles jersey with Mozart as his name and 620 as his number, and a silly feathered hat with a colorful rooster comb on top. In the opera, the Queen of the Night persuades Prince Tamino to rescue her daughter Pamina from captivity. Tamino and Pamina undergo several trials to test their love. While Papageno, who accompanies Tamino, fails the trials, he is rewarded with his ideal female companion Papagena.

During the show, Megan goes back and forth into the audience bringing the student volunteers backstage. Three students in animal masks perform with the Three Ladies, who work for the Queen of the Night. Their fellow classmates giggle while their friends prance and dance onstage. They go back to their seats as rock stars! Later, another set of students are brought up to serve as the fire and water for Tamino and Pamina’s third test to overcome with the magic flute as protection. The final audience volunteer is an adult, in this case, a music teacher at The Wilkes School who is dressed as a tree. The students roar with laughter as Papageno and Papagena manipulate the tree and hide behind it.

To further engage the students, the Peabody Conservatory performers come back onstage after their final bow to answer questions from the audience – most are about how long the performers rehearsed, how long they’ve been studying music, as well as questions about the show’s plot.

While this production took place at Peabody, the Peabody Opera Outreach program also brings the performances into the community with shows at schools or other venues. For more information, visit the Peabody Opera Outreach web page.

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