Young children are currently getting their first taste of opera with a bitesize version of The Magic Flute being performed in village halls, libraries and arts venues across the north of England.
The Mini Magic Flute has been written, directed and is narrated by John Savournin, who is also singing Sarastro in the mainstage production. John took some time out from his busy schedule to tell us all about the show and why he decided to adapt Mozart’s work for a younger audience.
“Due to its very creative and imaginative story, The Magic Flute offers a lot for children to enjoy and appreciate. In many ways, it’s the perfect story to act as an introduction to opera – full of magic and even featuring some animals! What was important however was to find a way to adapt the story for a young audience, so that it was easy to follow, fast paced, and included elements that they could physically engage with, either through action, using their voices, or through arts and crafts.”
Prior to each performance of The Mini Magic Flute, the audience are invited to take part in a half hour creative arts activity, ensuring they are already engaged with the show before it even begins. The interaction continues as the mini opera progresses. John explains:
“The children have the opportunity to make birds out of paper before the performance. These then have a special part in the story. The performers also really interact with the children, going into the audience and asking them to participate in helping the characters on their journey.”
For this production, John is joined by soprano Charlotte Trepess, tenor Richard Pinkstone and accordionist Miloš Milivojević, who have all had to adjust to performing in front of a younger audience:
“It’s a very rewarding experience, but it also takes a lot of energy and focus to attract – and keep – the children’s attention. They do become very invested in the story though and are often mesmerised by the visual aspects (we include the use of several puppets) and by the sound of the opera singers’ voices, which are really exciting when heard up close. They find high notes particularly funny!”
When asked why introducing opera to young children is important, John responds:
“I think it’s vital that opera is introduced to children at a young age if they are going to develop an interest in it as they grow up. It hopefully means it will become part of their culture and a ‘norm’, rather than a daunting experience that they’d rather not dare to try, which sadly is often the case. The reality is that it is raw, honest, breath-taking and far from alienating! It’s got to be one of the most exciting theatrical experiences one can have.”
The Mini Magic Flute is being performed throughout February and March in Yorkshire and in and around our touring venues at Salford, Nottingham and Newcastle. Tickets start at £4.50.