2 Gables children among young singers in Florida Grand Opera’s ‘La bohème’
It’s not often that you see children at the opera and especially not singing on stage alongside the opera singers.
Two Coral Gables youngsters are among 20 children who are taking advantage of this extraordinary opportunity during Florida Grand Opera’s latest production of Puccini’s La bohème, which opened Nov. 17 at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade.
Opera is a sophisticated art form that calls for mature voices, so they rarely feature roles for children. One of the exceptions is La boheme, the popular opera that inspired the musical Rent, which highlights a children’s chorus as well as a one-line child soloist in the second act.
The youngsters who sing in this production are members of the Miami Children’s Chorus, a non-profit organization based in Coral Gables, and have been in rehearsals with Florida Grand Opera since early October.
“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 each new performance,” says Tim Sharp, music director of the Miami Children’s Chorus and former Florida Grand Opera chorister.
For these young singers who have a passion for music, the chance to be on stage with a premier opera company outranks even the magic of Disney World.
Dr. Eysa Marquez-Bengochea, a Coral Gables resident and business owner, proudly comments on how her family had to change their Thanksgiving plans to have her daughter Eylisabeth, age 8, involved in the opera.
“My daughter would tell me, ‘This is the real thing! This is what I’ve always wanted.’ Mickey Mouse is always going to be there, but how many chances does an 8-year-old have to be in opera?”
Monique Rosenberg, a mathematics professor at the University of Miami, is also thrilled that her daughter Zelda, age 9, has a role in the opera and says it took a lot of organization to make it happen. “It’s very time consuming. Rehearsals and performances are long and can run late, but it’s so rewarding as parent because of how much she enjoys it.”
The children are featured at the beginning of La bohème‘s second act. It begins with a lively market scene where mothers shop with their children in tow. The children’s chorus sings along with the adult choristers and has a moment to shine when Parpignol, the toymaker, enters the scene and they all gather about him, cheerfully chanting his name. The children come back on the scene at the end of the act for a patriotic parade before the curtain falls.
“Act II of La bohème is always difficult,” said Maestro Ramon Tebar, Florida Grand Opera’s music director and conductor for La bohème. “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 30 years and is a welcome sight backstage at the Arsht Center this season.
Performances continue through Dec. 2 at the Sanford and Dolores Ziff Ballet Opera House at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County, 1300 Biscayne Blvd. The production moves to Au-Rene Theater at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, 201 SW 5th Ave., Fort Lauderdale, Dec. 6 and Dec. 8.