Two New "Rules" to Avoid Unacceptable Story Themes

It has come to my attention that many students are beginning to want to write their operas around themes of a violent, sexual or off-color nature due, I am sure, to their exposure to those topics on television, in video games, and movies, and even, sadly, in the news. Those themes are absolutely not appropriate for Opera by Children participants and the music mentors will be asked not to arrange anything for children to sing that will reinforce negative behavior.

I am providing you with a “way out” when you see your students slipping into one of those modes. Add to the “Three Rules” two more, please:

1. Stories may not be built around sexual or overtly violent themes. You may phrase that however is best suited to the age of your students. Perhaps you could say “boy-girl relationships are not a topic that we may use in this activity.” We already have “No one gets hurt”, but that does not seem to stop the older students from wanting to introduce quite a lot of direct violence into the operas. It is the teacher’s responsibility to watch for and guide the students away from those areas while they are writing the story.

2. Language used in the opera may not include profanity or even an “indication” of profanity, such as using a partial statement that the mind automatically fills in the blanks. For instance, students cannot say “What the …..” and expect other students not to fill in the missing word with an inappropriate slang term. This is inappropriate for Opera by Children and will not be set to music by the music mentors.

Opera by Children is a safe place. It is unique. It is fun, but it is also ennobling and uplifting. And it has certain parameters. TEACHERS, remember please that you do not give away all control to the students. You give away your “dreams” as Mrs. Wuthrich so nicely stated at the workshop, meaning what YOU would like to have the story say and do. Yes, please do allow them their ideas and let them own the opera, but give them the parameters and be the guardian of the process that gently guides them to stay within those parameters.

If you are unsure whether or not something is acceptable, ask us please. We are here to help you to be successful and enjoy this entire process.

Susan Ames
Education Director, Utah Festival Opera


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