Earlier in April, sixth grade students were treated to a visit from a Salt Marsh Opera singer and accompanist, who presented a workshop to teach the students a little about opera.
The visitors will also gave students some background information about Jack and Jill and the Happening Hill, an original opera they went to see at the Arts Center this past Monday with their English classes. These events are made possible in large part by Simon Holt, who is both Williams' newest music teacher as well as the Artistic Director and General Manager of the Salt Marsh Opera itself.
"The Salt Marsh Opera was a very interesting experience for everyone," English Department Chair and field trip chaperone Joe Cote shared. "The show itself presented a familiar story (Jack and Jill) but they did it in a format that most of the students were unfamiliar with. A big part of our curricular goals for sixth grade students is to present them with new ways of approaching literature and storytelling in general. The Salt Marsh Opera did just that. Students were exposed to storytelling as an art form, but also saw how entertainment can be a valuable way of communicating with an audience.”
"People may think that opera is just singing, that they're not really moving around, that it might be boring, but it's actually really fun the way they made it," Zaela Crespo '24 said, explaining how engaged she became with the performance.
For six years, Salt Marsh Opera’s Kids Love Opera! program has worked with fifth and sixth grade students in southeastern Connecticut and southern Rhode Island to stimulate enthusiasm for opera. While Salt Marsh Opera has relied with great success on performances of such classic works as The Magic Flute, La Cenerentola and Gianni Schicchi, by preparing students with in-school visits and study guides, they will be presenting a brand new opera written specifically for this age group in 2018.
Entitled Jack and Jill and The Happening Hill, this hour-long piece follows a storyline in which Jack and Jill, best friends separated involuntarily at the top of a hill, search for each other through forest and field, longing for reunion. Throughout, they sing of both the tender and the humorous parts of their friendship. Along the way, they encounter characters who inspire them, to their surprise, to greater efforts. Jill is mentored by a Poet and an Astronomer, Jack by a Nature Lover and a Jokester, each of whom counsels a new way to approach the journey. When eventually they have to nap, both are provided the final key to success by a magical figure who enters their dreams. Joyously, they find each other, again on the top of the hill. The central theme proposes the multi-faceted blessing of friendship. Other themes include the virtues of self-expression, of listening, of widening one’s perspective and of laughter.
Salt Marsh Opera is collaborating with a group of parents and teachers throughout the creative process. Not only are students participating in the creation of both music and libretto, they are also designing sets, costumes and choreography. In the spirit of full participation, audience members will be invited to join the stage play at several intervals during the performance. Salt Marsh Opera believes that students’ participation in both the creative process and performance can lead to a deeper and more meaningful understanding of opera.