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“An opera is a story and all of the words are sung.”
Preschoolers learn holistically, using all of their senses. The art form of opera combines story, drama, singing and moving to music, and the visual elements of scenery and props. Could classical operas, with the brilliant music of Mozart, Rossini, Bizet or Gilbert & Sullivan be adapted in an age-appropriate way to engage young children while helping them develop skills needed for Kindergarten?
Each year, Toledo Opera brings to town An Opera Is a Story creator and master teaching artist Christina Farrell. She and Toledo-based teaching artist Ebone Waweru lead a series of four sequential workshops in preschool classrooms where students learn to sing the ‘opera is a story… “refrain, warm up vocally, and embody a story through engaging musical, dramatic and movement experiences. This year, in the adapted version of The Pirates of Penzance, children discover that the Pirate King’s favorite treasure is the alphabet! The Major General also loves words and letters. Will they be safe from the Pirate King?
Teaching Artist Eboné Waweru graduated from The University of Toledo in 2001 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education and is a former Music Specialist for Toledo Public Schools. In 2019, Ms. Waweru was a guest artist with An Opera Is a Story, performing the role of Bess in the final Porgy and Bess performance for participating preschoolers. She also has participated in training with Christina Farrell (creator of AOIAS) to become an AOIAS teaching artist and led four classes of AOIAS-Hansel and Gretel in fall 2019. While attending the University of Toledo, Ms. Waweru won the Concerto and Aria competition, was a recipient of the Barbara Rondelli-Perry vocal scholarship and was a finalist in the Leontyne Price competition. In fall, 2016 Eboné won an award for placing first at the regional National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) competition. She is a regular member of the Toledo Opera Chorus and in 2018 performed in the Toledo Opera Ensemble for the premiere in Toledo of Douglas Tappin’s Rhythm & Blues opera, I Dream. She has played the lead role in theater, opera and musical productions, including: the dynamic and feisty Deloris Van Cartier (Sister Act: The Musical); Mrs. Muller in John Patrick Shanley’s Doubt a Parable; Sarah (Ragtime); and Sonjia Glawari in The University of Toledo’s production of Léhar’s The Merry Widow. Ms. Waweru has also performed as the soprano soloist in John Rutter's Requiem, Mozart's Mass in C minor, Beethoven's Choral Fantasy and John Rutter's Gloria Magnificat Te Deum. In addition to performing with Toledo Opera, she sings with The University of Toledo Opera Ensemble, Opera on Tap, Toledo Community Choir, St. Michael’s in The Hills Episcopal Church, and many other churches and community theaters throughout Toledo.
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Reflections from TPS Head Start teachers after An Opera Is a Story: Hansel and Gretel
“I just love their [students’] little imaginations…… I think that’s why they love the opera, they got to imagine it and be a part of it. They really wanted to be a part of it.”
“Children were singing the songs when we were walking, transitioning, at recess, and in the hallway going to the gym.”
“Music really does work with them – it’s a different way of talking to them in their everyday lives.”
“Loved how they could remember it and they had to sing and do the movements at the same time.”