A beloved art form is finally getting its day in the spotlight…on the calendar. February 8th is World Opera Day!
In Western culture, opera is a ubiquitous art form. Found in commercials, cartoons, and popular culture, opera is everywhere. It has permeated our culture so that statements like, “I heard this on Looney Toons!” and “Isn’t that from a JG Wentworth commercial?” are extremely common.
Opera originated in Italy in the late 16th Century and quickly spread to the rest of the continent. Heinrich Schütz, who helped establish the German tradition, and Jean-Baptiste Lully, who helped establish the French tradition, were some of the greatest minds in opera. Later, Mozart, Handel, Rossini, and Wagner made their indelible marks on opera and have deeply impacted Western culture as we know it.
So, how do we pay homage to one of the greatest, most widely known art forms in Western culture?
- Have your music students or ensemble members come up with their own opera. In groups, encourage musicians to come up with their libretto, plot, style, era, and costuming. Remember that sprechstimme, the expressionist vocal technique between speaking and singing, can be a functional way of performing if you don’t wish to come up with “actual” music for your musicians to sing.
- Show clips of famous arias, like the Queen of the Night’s aria from Mozart’s The Magic Flute or Ride of the Valkyrie’s from Wagner’s Die Walküre. You can also watch full-length operas on Medici.Tv, where you can watch various recorded operas for free without a subscription. In addition, they offer a premium subscription package with the world’s greatest operas, ballets, concerts, and master classes at your disposal.
- If you teach younger students whose lives still revolve around cartoons, consider getting your hands on one of the greatest operatic cartoons ever – Willy the Operatic Whale (also known as The Whale Who Wanted to Sing at the Met). This cartoon short used to be sold on a VHS that also included Ferdinand the Bull and Lambert the Sheepish Lion. For many generations of children, cartoons like this served as entertaining and accessible first introductions to opera.
Every type of musical ensemble can find something to celebrate about this holiday honoring one of the most important art forms in Western classical music!
This blog post is part of a series linked to our Music Celebrations Around the World calendar. Download the calendar for access to information about musical celebrations and holidays with strong musical components to share in your music classroom or with your ensemble members! Music + Travel = Encore Tours.