Before even the cattle had awoken this morning I had my first cup of coffee sitting warmly in my belly. It was a poor sleep as I waited anxiously for the Portland Opera ToGo (PoGo) production of Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte. Some of me was still worried that some students would not understand or appreciate the performance, and there was much work to be done. Much of me was simply excited to sit and watch an opera, and one of my favorites.
So I set to work. Details needed to be ironed out with teachers, and plans made on how I was going to get to Monument while simultaneously shepherding the PoGo people in Long Creek. Then they arrived! Sidewalks were a mess and needed to be shoveled so they could get set pieces into the multipurpose room. So we set to work. They did a wonderful job, and were quite flexible. After all, it is an adjustment to make from Portland concert halls to small town multipurpose rooms. Just as the show was ready to go it was time to make my exit and go down to Monument.
Arriving in Monument there was more buzz about the imminent performance. The younger kids were particularly excited, and my high schoolers did not fail expectations. They eagerly told their friends about the wonder they were about experience. “You have no idea how loud they can sing,” they would say. “Or how high!” one interjected.
By two o’clock PoGo was set up for a second run. The students walked in and saw a great wooden set. Beautiful women were dressed in colorful Persian costumes, and was that a man dressed as a bird? Why would a bird have a beard? This was disconcerting to one first grader. They knew not what to expect, yet they sat still and quiet. The performers of PoGo greatly surpassed what I had hoped, and they even impressed some unsuspecting high schoolers. The Magic Flute proved to be magic indeed.
After a short silence the questions came pouring as a deluge. Even students that had promised they would not enjoy the opera could not hide their curiosity. Most impressive was one rather impetuous fourth grader who was a well tuned Socratic wonder. He did not take lightly to being told that he must get on the bus and could no longer ask the opera singers questions. If ever one tells you that the great, classical arts are dying they are boors. Today proved that kids are starved for great art. Even I would not have thought there were opera fans in East Oregon but there are. Trust me that at least a few students in Monument will be seeking opera and classical music as they explore urban areas.
Let me also say, “bravi tutti,” to the cast and accompanists of PoGo. Not only did they prove to be remarkably self-sufficient, but it was plainly evident they were passionate about getting kids excited in the performing arts. They had means of involving kids during the show, and gracefully entertained all matter of questions afterwards. PoGo managed to exceed expectations in all matters possible. They managed to reignite the passion within this conductor turned music teacher, and taught all present about the power of great musicianship.