The house lights dimmed as the production began, and teachers hushed hundreds of children from schools across the city. They were at the Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center to watch the dress rehearsal of “The Barber of Seville,” an annual holiday production.
The famous comic opera, originally created by Gioachino Rossini in 1816, has been brought back to The Met in the form of a family-friendly adaptation for the holiday season.
Bartlett Sher adapted the opera, starring Isabel Leonard as Rosina, with Anthony Walker conducting. But there was a different atmosphere in the audience for this final dress rehearsal, with the crowd decades younger than the usual opera audience.
“I like it when that anvil fell and squashed the pumpkins and the cart,” said Carmelo De Mio, 7, a student at P.S. 58 in Brooklyn. “It must have taken a long time to do that.”
A total of 157 second grade students from P.S. 58 took the subway all the way from Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. Most had never seen the opera, but had spent two months preparing for the performance by learning about it from their music teacher.
Maddy Pravda, 7, had been watching YouTube videos of past “Barber of Seville” performances every morning. While her favorite song at the moment is Adele’s “Hello,” she said she loved learning the songs for this opera and was eager to see it live.
“I like the part where Count Almaviva gets the note from Rosina,” said Maddy as she enthusiastically waited during intermission for the second act.
Maddy’s mother, Carolyn Pravda, was a chaperone for the school trip and said that she felt like she had won the lottery to go to the Met with her daughter for free. “They pretty much all know the whole thing, which is amazing for second graders,” she said. “To know all the major characters and most of the major plot points, they all knew it.”
Pravda said that P.S. 58 is a very culturally involved school. Dancers from the American Ballet Theater were recently at the school and the students wrote and performed their own ballet together with them.
Stephen Cedermark, a music teacher at P.S. 58, arranged the trip to the opera. Although Cedermark teaches children from pre-kindergarten to the second grade at the Carroll Gardens School, he decided to bring his oldest students to this performance.
He teaches the children opera as part of the music curriculum, where they learn everything from the story of “The Barber of Seville” to the history of opera. They even learn some of the songs in English and Italian.
“They know the story, so I think that really helps,” he said. “Otherwise it would be confusing. They’re so excited to hear the parts that they have been studying.”
The theater full of children erupted in playful cheering and applause as the final curtain fell and the house lights came on.
When asked whether he would go back to the opera, Carmelo De Mio said, “Yeah, I might.”