Cries, cheers, and rounds of applause are all elements you would expect from your typical day at the opera.
And that is what happened on Thursday, January 11 during the Bronx Opera’s abridged version of Mozart’s The Abduction from the Seraglio.
This special performance was viewed by about 500 students from five different schools through the borough and the kids certainly were not disappointed.
But the showcasing of these abridged productions ahead of the company’s official opening on Friday night, however, are less about the entertainment factor, but more about what opera does for its audience.
“You have to ask yourself, “Who’s going to be in the audience in 50 years,’” said Michael Spierman, one of the Bronx Opera’s founders and the current general director.
“I have a multimillion dollar salary but it’s not in the color green. It’s in the color of seeing the expression on a child’s face and having someone come back to the opera in the future and saying, ‘You believed in me when others didn’t.’”
The Abduction from the Seraglio is an opera that takes place in Turkey in the 1700s when a man purchases three Europeans as slaves from pirates and tries to take one of the slaves as his lover.
Though the production has many comedic elements, the show explores the relationship between men and women and the different wealth classes in 18th century European society.
“Opera as an art form has been around since the 1600s but the stories that exist in opera are very similar and unchanging to the relationships that we deal with now,” said Benjamin Spierman, the managing director of the Bronx Opera.
“I think it’s important for kids to understand just how timeless the human condition is and I think opera is a great way of teaching that.”
The Bronx Opera has been inviting school children to the opera since 1996 when Lehman College asked if the Bronx Opera would like to put on a theatrical performance for children, according to Michael Spierman. From this performance, the Opera-In-Schools program was born.
Bronx Opera cast and crew from the productions go to schools to help introduce the operas, invite the kids to watch a shortened version of the piece, give them free tickets to watch the full production, then go back to their schools to answer follow-up questions any of the kids may have about the shows, according to Spierman.
“We never know what direction [the discussion] is going to take but we’re prepared for anything,” said C. David Morrow, one of the performers in The Abduction from the Seraglio, who also attended one of the school visits on Tuesday before the children’s show.
“Within five minutes the kids were asking questions about the extreme gender relations in the time period compared to today,” Morrow continued. “The kids are so bright, they don’t miss a thing.”
The Bronx Opera is unique from other opera companies because it performs all its shows in English, a translating process which takes anywhere from eight to 12 weeks to get to the final script and score performed in front of the public, according to Ben Spierman.
The Bronx Opera’s full performance of Mozart’s The Abduction from the Seraglio will be in production from January 12 to January 15.