Itâ€™s opera, Dr Spock, but not as we know itâ€¦
Billed as the opera world premiere for 3-4 year olds, Scottish Opera bringsÂ KidO to a wide selection of venues around the country.Â In a forty-five minute show, the world of musical storytelling creates an adventure that encourages young children to play, to feel, to pretend andâ€¦ understand that funny noises from kettles and teacups can be music too!
KidO, directed by Lu Kemp, is a follow-up to BabyO and SensoryO, produced for babies and toddlers respectively – and it was no surprise that the majority of children and carers at the most recent Edinburgh event had been to one, if not both, of these earlier shows.
Katie Lavinia Cooperâ€™s music is specially written to demonstrate how body and vocal percussion can create rhythm and build up words and tunes, and the story (featuring Frances Morrison-Allen, Stuart Semple and Andrew McTaggart) is essentially about two very different characters who learn how to share their living space.
Yes, itâ€™s fun and itâ€™s great entertainment, but as Jane Davidson, Scottish Operaâ€™s Director of Education and Outreach, says: â€˜thereâ€™s also evidence that music can help children with their cognitive development, so for example, through repetition and recognition of the sounds and actions that motivate the characters in the story, weâ€™re helping build language skills.â€™ Carers, too, she says, can learn so much about their child through watching their reactions to the show.
Opera and children is a natural pairing, Jane says.Â There is high drama, there is strong characterisation, and there are great stories; think of the most universally popular operas like Madame Butterfly and La Boheme â€“ soap operas by any other name â€“ and this is simply translated to an age-appropriate kids’ production.
Jane stresses that for these very reasons, opera should never be seen as exclusive or daunting, and indeed, it was Stephen Sondheim who said that the definition of what is an opera or a musical is only dependent on the audienceâ€¦ BabyO, SensoryO and KidO are also an attempt to make the idea of opera accessible to all, to encourage a young audience that will grow up with the music, and in doing so creating an â€˜ecosystemâ€™ of opera-lovers.
Scottish Operaâ€™s youth company, Connect (for chorus and orchestra), its Education Angels, its primary school programme and its series of Unwrapped â€“ free events in which three or four scenes are performed and explained by the stage manager â€“ are all part of the dynamic outreach programme.
So, what did my personal 4 year old reviewer make of KidO?Â Naturally cautious, he was having none of invitation to the musical floor that every other child couldnâ€™t get enough of.Â But he loved the â€˜robotâ€™ (it might have been a robot, it might have been an angel; it was gold and had wings) who tossed the fruit around to make a fruit piano (4 year old is since wondering why the grapefruit and pineapples at home donâ€™t make music) and he is still singing, in a deep growly voice, â€˜this is my spaceâ€¦â€™Â His overall verdict was â€˜amazing, brilliant and funnyâ€™.Â The two criticisms were that there was not much music â€“ I had initially dubbed it a concert so that was more about expectation than content â€“ and that we should be allowed to see it againâ€¦
Anyone with a child or grandchild looking for an outing with a difference (both kidsâ€™ theatre and music classes can be hugely expensive, so at Â£5-7 this isnâ€™t too bad) should give this a go.
At various venues throughout Scotland til the end of April.
For more information, see: www.scottishopera.org.uk