It looked like a Bach to Baby concert. Onstage, a flutist accompanied a storyteller in captivating the attention of children sitting or laying on pillows. Toddlers were snuggled in their parents’ lap. Among the families seated throughout the room known as Salle Favart were several oversized teddy bears. This free open house event at the Opéra Comique in Paris launched their second annual children’s festival, My First Opera from February 9-24, 2019.
If Mon Premier Festival D’Opéra is designed to initiate young audiences to music and singing, the open house festivities introduced them to this jewel of a theater itself. Everyone received a booklet that guided young visitors on a tour of the Opéra Comique. This illustrated activity book was full of fun facts and games that required visitors to pay attention to their surroundings. Lessons about instruments and voice were interspersed with anecdotes such as why you never wish a performer good luck but instead say “Merde” ! Young sleuths participated in a treasure hunt with clues inviting curiosity throughout the building. The more artistically inclined sat at tables in the foyer coloring a drawing of the facade.
Activities usually reserved for les coulisses or behind the scenes were brought front and center with a display of costumes that families could actually try on. The atelier maquillage was extremely popular with children whose faces were transformed by professional theatrical make-up artists. Young performers from the Maîtrise populaire de l’Opéra Comique held a meet and greet. These artists from 8 to 25 years old are part of a social program founded by Sarah Koné that gives youth a thorough training in choral and solo singing and all aspects of the performing arts. They even learn chansigne, expressing the words of a song in sign language to the rhythm of the music for audiences with hearing impairments. The 2019 season of the Opéra Comique has several performances by the Maîtrise populaire notably the first of the three productions during My First Opera Festival.
An opera for children by children
February 9-11, 2019: Young vocalists of the Maîtrise Populaire de l’Opéra Comique will perform an adapted version of composer Englebert Humperdinck’s opera Hansel and Gretel based on the Grimm fairy tale for ages 8 and up. The Sunday afternoon performance will be their Dimanches Relax (not to be confused with sensory and autism-friendly Relaxed Performances) it is, nonetheless, a laid back atmosphere. Audio-description in French is provided for the visually impaired and Fa-Si-La Différence volunteers will help audiences with “complex handicaps” feel welcome and at ease. The codes of conduct on this day are more supple making it suitable for families with younger children as well.
February 13-17, 2019 Petite Balade aux Enfers Orpheus’ journey in the Underworld is the subject of a visual performance designed to initiate young audiences to opera voices. The staging of marionnettes created by the visual artist Valérie Lesort offers a fairy-like puppeteer version of this western mythological tale. The Maîtrise populaire de l’Opéra Comique will perform the chorus in a co-production with Compagnie Point fixe.
February 22-24, 2019 Contes Chinois : Tales with Music and Images. Inspired by pop-up books, two Chinese children’s stories by Chen Jiang Hong are narrated with musical accompaniment and illustrations by the author. Click on the tiger to see a video preview of the performance for children ages 6 and up.
Seats for any one of the three performances during Mon Premier Festival D’Opéra are 20 Euros for adults and 10 Euros for children under 18. This includes events before or after the show. Click on the green title for further information and to purchase tickets online. You may buy at the box office or by phone +33 1 70 23 01 31. Questions about accessibility? Email email@example.com or call 33 1 70 23 01 44 .
The Opéra Comique is located at place Boieldieu in the 2nd arrondissment of Paris. The main entrance is on the square. There is a wheelchair accessible entrance at 5 rue Favart for people with reduced mobility. Read my previous article to learn more about Opéra Comique . Leave a comment below if you’d like to know why its good luck to say “merde”.