Should You Take Your Kids to the Opera? {Yes, and Here's Why}

levyWith four kids, finding one on one time with each of them isn't the easiest thing, which is why I jumped at the chance when Opera Saratoga invited us to attend a matinee performance of La Cenerentola (Cinderalla, in Italian) and to do another "Kid Review" like we had originally done a couple years back for their very fun H.M.S. Pinafore.

The set up at the Spa Little Theater in Saratoga Spa State Park is great for kids and is a smaller, intimate setting while still having that grand theater feel. The opera is sung in Italian with the words projected onto a rectangular screen that is easily visible from the ceiling of the stage, and Leven (7) had no trouble reading the lyrics and following along with the plot. Even without following the lyrics, the performers did such an outstanding job that it was easy to get the full feel of what was going on with each of them.

This performance is of Rossini’s beloved version of Cinderella that is based on the timeless fairytale, but with a few differences that will keep even the most die-hard Cinderella fans wondering what the next turn will be in the story. The classics are there: the beautiful Cinderella, the wicked stepsisters and the Prince, and the story unfolds in front of a simple yet visually striking backdrop that lets the vibrant characters take center stage.

The costumes were really perfect, especially for the hilarious wicked step-sisters who were larger than life in their pinks and purples, oranges and greens with crazy hair and makeup. Their physical, almost slapstick comedy paired with absolutely incredible voices made for performances you couldn't take your eyes off of with plenty of laughs. At one point when meeting the prince the one stepsister begins pulling a link of sausages out of her dress and eating them, this was after a couple of scenes where she performed with and while eating a loaf of bread.

Cinderella is perfect as the spitfire, hidden away third sister who transforms into a beautiful princess, and the two handsome princes (I don't want to give it away here, you'll just have to see it yourself) were perfectly cast. You won't miss the wicked stepmother because the pompous and delightfully buffoonish stepfather really almost steals the show (he was Levy's favorite character, after Cinderella of course), and the troupe of twelve or so chorus "friends" was hilarious (watch for the scene where they all whip out notebooks and feather pens one by one to the accompaniment of the orchestra, it was hysterical).

The show is on the longer side, running at about 2 hours and 45 minutes with an intermission, but I would say kids around 6 and up would have no problem sitting through this show, Levy was absolutely glued to the stage up till the end and I never got the "When is this going to be over?" question that I was half expecting (an intermission Snickers bar didn't exactly hurt either).

11705094_911663002227047_3164540076221508093_nthe "friends" and one of the princes (photo credit Facebook, Opera Saratoga)

To finish up, I'll hand it over to my 7 year old for her review of Opera Saratoga's La Cenerentola:

Me: So Levy, what was your favorite part?

Levy: The stepfather was really great, he made a lot of crazy faces and the part with his Teddy Bear when they woke him up was so funny. And the sisters costumes were so funny with the sausages and when the one sister was doing that silly dance. But I really liked Cinderella, her dresses were so pretty, and I loved the crown at the end. Did that light up special or was it just all diamonds?

Me: I think it was just fake diamonds that were catching the lights (ed note: it was extremely sparkly and elicited a deep "ohhhhhh" from my 7 year old).

Levy: Can I get a crown for my birthday?

Me: Let's focus on the review and I will put it on your birthday list. Tell me about the singing, did you think it was hard to understand what the story was about since they weren't singing in English?

Levy: Not really, they left the words up on the screen long enough that I could read the whole thing each time, and since I sort of knew the story already I could figure out who everyone was. I liked that it was a little different from the movie (ed note: the Disney version) because I wasn't sure what was going to happen at the end.

Me: What about the princes and their little gang of friends? I liked those guys.

Levy: The princes were really great, they actually looked like real princes, they had real prince hair and everything (ed note: Levy was disappointed here when I told her they were wearing wigs, but I assured her they had "prince hair" under the wigs as well). The friends were so funny, I liked the part where they all came out with roses in their mouths and sang with them in their teeth, that looked hard.

The spaghetti part was SO funny too (ed note: the "friends" all came out with bowls of spaghetti and creatively helped the cast eat dinner at the ball, it was quite unique and very entertaining, especially sitting up close like we were). But I really liked their singing voices, Cinderella had a voice like Katy Perry but even better because she could sing more really hard notes and didn't need a microphone at all (ed note: I assure you Opera Saratoga this is a high compliment even if it doesn't sound like one).

Overall, we loved the afternoon. Getting to do something different and special with my girl, exposing her to a different art form that we don't get a chance to see usually, and at the same time getting to use the experience as a learning example to find out about other forms of performance and story telling were all so valuable. We took the opportunity to make it a whole mommy and me date, and chatted about the show afterward over ice cream and Shirley Temples.

Opera Saratoga only has two more matinee performances of La Cenerentola on Saturday, July 18th at 2pm (for younger kids) but you can also catch the evening show on Sunday, July 26th at 7:30pm if you have slightly older kids that can handle an evening performance. They also have two other fantastic peformances (date night alert) to check out. To find out more and to purchase tickets, please click here.

Many thanks to Opera Saratoga for having us back again, we had such a lovely time!