A while back I made two new friends. We have something in common – a love of opera. Yes, it’s true, I like opera and all that goes with it. Singing, dancing, a good or goofy story or even a sad one and some very cool music. My new friends have many interests, including eating well and saving the planet by using less gasoline. They not only like opera, they know many parts by heart in English, Italian or German and they sometimes perform opera for selected guests.
And here the kicker — they are 7 years old.
Keoni and Maceo are twins with uncommon energy, talent and joie de vive. Their parents are performers and in order to keep the family together when they are on the road, Mom and Dad have chosen to homeschool this lively pair. A neighbor volunteered to teach them opera one day, and after that their parents noticed that every time they were out playing together, what they were ‘playing’ was opera. Each day the rambling garden with its hllocks and hideaways of twined vegetation, pathways and wild sculptures, would reverberate with scenes and tunes from The Magic Flute, Hansel and Gretel or Amahl and the Night Visitors. Then one day the idea for Applesauce Theater took shape and before long neighbors were being treated to a staged performance of The Barber of Seville in the spacious dance studio behind their home.
Maceo and Keoni did need some help to do all the parts, so there were standout performances that afternoon by Panda, Koala and Shrek. But the twins stole every scene with their vivid portrayals of Doctor Bartolo, Rosina, Count Almaviva and Figaro, the barber. Their voices are not yet ready for some of these arias so they are not singing, but it was clear to this opera goer that they not only have a remarkable grasp of the words, but also a keen sense of the music and the story. Keoni deftly shifted from one role to another while adjusting her costume to suit whichever character was signing. Maceo gave a stunningly athletic performance during one of the choruses as he sat astride his mount (a big inflated ball) and rode (bounced) across the stage, sometimes flying off into the air, only to return and mount another assault. This, perhaps his signature move, is not something you are likely to run into in most opera houses. More’s the pity!
Singing, dancing and performing for others have given Keoni and Maceo a wide range of learning experiences. For this one performance the twins not only learned lots of music and cues, they also made the tickets and designed the play bill, made the set and worked out the choreography.
Parents Mark and Veronica have found that keeping journals of what they are studying together has been an important part of the homeschooling process. The twins sometimes write their own stories and are interested in publishing them someday. Oh, and they are raising 4 chickens too! I wish you could see the hen house. It is a masterpiece of reclaimed fence wood and looks like a miniature cottage in the woods where Hansel and Gretel met the witch.
It’s not uncommon for homeschooling parents to wonder if they are providing the right instruction for their children, and Veronica and Mark are no exception to that. But when she looks at all that her children know, Veronica says she is amazed. She feels they know much more than she did at their age, like gardening, something she never got to do when she was growing up in southern California. And they sure know their opera!
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