If every adult could start their day by attending an opera created, produced and starred by Beasley second graders, the world would be a happy place.
Lower School Music Teacher Barbara Spieler worked closely with both second grade classes to create fun pieces loosely based on two children’s books. They collaborated as a team, and she also worked with each child individually on their parts. She remarked that her young stars were very specific about their lines, making sure she noted each role exactly as they desired. Each class had only 10 periods to discuss, create and rehearse.
Mrs. Spieler said, “It was rewarding to see the enthusiasm and creativity that our second grade students demonstrated as they composed, produced and performed their original operas. Students especially enjoyed adding the dramatic elements that make opera such an engaging art form, from comedic chase scenes to surprise endings. This student-centered project gave our young opera singers a chance to enjoy both the creative process of composing arias and recitatives and the joy of performing for an appreciative audience.”
On Thursday morning, parents were treated to both operas in Beasley Studio. In the first, based on the book Giggle, Giggle, Quack by Doreen Cronin, a barnyard full of farm animals took advantage of their owner’s absence and created a stir for Farmer Pete, who was filling in. They took a bath and ordered pizza and a Slip ‘N Slide from Amazon (using their Prime account, of course). Chaos ensued when they looked at the Amazon box to get a phone number for ordering a second Slip ‘N Slide. The number was 116, but one animal turned the box upside-down, and they called 911 instead. A firefighter arrived to help and sang about the witty animals having fun on the farm.
The second opera, based on David Small’s Imogen’s Antlers, followed a group of children who woke up with animal ears. A variety of experts, including scientists, engineers, a doctor and a barber all tried to help restore the children’s human ears. Much to their dismay, and to the delight of the children, they were unable. The children celebrated their animal ears and sang of how they appreciated their unique new features. Finally, the experts called it a day, and everyone went to sleep. The children woke up the next morning with their human ears restored, and then surprised the audience by showing that they now had tails!
Allison Felter, Director of Education and Community Engagement for Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, enjoyed the performance. She said, “Mrs. Spieler’s second grade music students were nothing short of stupendous today! I am in awe of the cooperative learning, collaboration and creativity packed into writing an original opera in just 10 short class periods. These are essential building blocks for loving to learn and learning to love the arts that all began in Mrs. Spieler’s music classes. Bravi tutti!”