It's a rare opportunity for a child to sing in an opera, since this art form normally calls for much more mature voices, typically starting training in their '20s or later. There are a few operas that feature a children's chorus, however, such as La bohème, which Florida Grand Opera (FGO) debuted this Saturday, Nov. 17 at 7 p.m. at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County.
The 20 local children featured in this production come from all of over Miami-Dade and are members of the Miami Children's Chorus, a non-profit organization based in Coral Gables. The children, ages 10-12, have been participating in rehearsals along with the FGO chorus since late October, working late nights alongside their director, Mr. Tim Sharp -- a former FGO chorus member.
"These kids have never been in an opera before. Every day is a new day for them and they get more and more excited as we approach opening night," says Sharp.
The children are heavily featured at the beginning of La bohème's second act; a vigorous crowd scene that depicts a French marketplace where mothers shop with their little ones. One of the beloved moments of this scene is the entrance of a toymaker selling his wares as the children gather around him and call out his name, "Parpignol, Parpignol, Parpignol!"
Members of the children's chorus are also highlighted towards the end of the second act, where a joyful parade takes place. Before the start of rehearsal, Sharp sat with his students and explained, "You have to have an extremely active imagination to see a parade that does not exist. The reason they have you down front is because you have the most active imagination."
Rehearsals are long and require hard work. For these young singers, their love of music and the chance to be on stage with a premier opera company makes all the difference. "Rehearsals with the children's chorus has been excellent and I have been very impressed with them," said Maestro Ramon Tebar, conductor for La bohème and Music Director of Florida Grand Opera.
He added, "Act II of La bohème is always difficult. The music is very fast and they have to move and run on stage during the whole act while singing. It can prove difficult for the adult choristers, but for the children it's as easy as eating ice cream. It's a joy making music with them."
The Miami Children's Chorus has been working closely with Florida Grand Opera for the past 30 years and is a welcome sight backstage at the Arsht Center this season. Tickets for La bohème start at just $11 and can be purchased by calling the Box Office at 1800.741.1010 or online at www.FGO.org.
Below is a slideshow featuring YouTube clips from some well-known operas that feature a children's chorus or child roles. Enjoy!