Edinburgh Fringe 2016
Opera? You seriously want to take kids to a show about opera? Isn’t opera for the crusties in dinner jackets and tiaras? Think again. Think Opera Mouse!
Opera can seem like a frightening, impenetrable form of entertainment to most educated adults, never mind those of more tender years. All those enormously bosomed ladies with wobbling vibratos singing something quite indecipherable in a foreign language whilst a rather large band tries to drown them out. No wonder most people steer clear of it.
But Melanie Gall is a girl on a mission. She’s determined to demystify the genre which she emphatically does through what is a nicely conceived and enthusiastically delivered introduction to opera through the eyes of Tilly, a glove puppet mouse that just happens to stumble upon the Met in New York. Peering through a gap in the stage wall, Tilly is enchanted by the sounds she hears and sets out to become an opera singer, practising day and night until………
Well, I don’t want to spoil what is such a charming tale. It’s a simple premise, use an object (in this case a glove puppet) to tell a story through which a complex concept like opera (which is just a story told through singing, if you think about it) can be made accessible to young kids. Gall does this with enthusiasm and real warmth, connecting immediately with the three tots in the front row (it was a Monday morning and not a lot of folk were around) to the point that they all leapt forward onto the stage when offered the chance to do a bit of singing and joined in so enthusiastically that it took quite a while to persuade them to sit down again.
And if coping with the glorious unpredictability of youthful participants wasn’t enough of a challenge, poor Ms Gall had to deal with several unscheduled black outs and sound cues that were later than most buses are in Edinburgh. That she did so with such ingenuity and good humour speaks volumes for this very capable storyteller. Make no mistake, though, she’s the real deal when it comes to the warbling. A trained opera singer with appearances at Carnegie Hall and the Lincoln Center to her name, she can hit a note, and sustain it. Quite beautifully.
It’s a first class introduction to a genre that needs to work much harder at capturing the young – and keeping them. And is Gall the ambassador to do this? Just ask those three very young people who got up on stage and sang without inhibition or a care in the world.