When they began preparing for a visit to the opera, students at Westbrook’s Canal and Congin Schools expressed concerns such as “Will there be a lot of large ladies in helmets?” “Will they scream the whole time?” and “I’ve heard that it’s not over until the fat lady sings!” But soon they were acting out scenes, singing arias, and asking their music teacher, Joanna Baker, to tell them more.

And then came the big day, Friday, April 29. The Westbrook High School auditorium was buzzing with excitement. Buses from Portland, Windham, Cape Elizabeth, Westbrook and as far away as Rockland were creating a constant flow of anxious children. The principal from Cape exclaimed, “These children are so excited that one would think they were going to a ball game!”

Approximately 1,300 students were able to see their very first opera, Mozart’s Magic Flute. The one-hour performance, expertly done by the Boston Opera Company, was presented with the splendor of elaborate costumes, special sound effects, and talented energetic singers who interacted with their young audience.

Preparation was a key ingredient to enjoyment, and the opera company provided excellent lesson plans that have links to math, social studies, geography, and align with the Maine Learning Results.

The performance was made possible due in large part to a grant from the PAL Team (Partners in Arts and Learning), and by the efforts of Janet Crawford, art director; Scott Trach, music director; and Joanna Baker, classroom music teacher.

“The talents that the actors had were amazing!” said fifth-grader Jade Springer. “I was surprised at how high their voices could get” commented Sabrina Lugo. “One voice was so lovely it gave me chills” said Cheryl Krauss, a substitute teacher at Congin. Beverly Grant, third-grade teacher reported that on the walk back to Canal school her students were commenting about the beautiful costumes and scenery. One student was also heard to say, “I liked everything about the Magic Flute except all the kissing!”

Joanna Baker


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