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A karaoke-style opera class for South Florida kids, born of COVID-19

Palm Beach Opera teaching artist Jennifer Wilson leads a virtual opera sing-along as notes and the phrase Here I have the magic potion appears below her
Palm Beach Opera
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Palm Beach Opera teaching artist Jennifer Wilson leads an opera sing-along on film as part of the company's "Story Time" series for children.

During COVID, Palm Beach Opera's classroom sing-alongs went online and on video.

The teacher on camera — who identifies herself as "Miss Jen" — reads from what looks like an ordinary storybook.

"Sergeant Belcore found Adina and said to her, ‘BEAUTIFUL Adina!  If you love me as I love you . . .' "

But this is no ordinary class. All of a sudden, the teacher breaks into song and supplies the rest of the line in a sparkling soprano voice.

“ '. . . don’t — you think — we should — be married? ' ”

On the lower third of the video is the treble clef of a music staff with the eight notes sung by Miss Jen; lyrics below the staff light up karaoke style, matching her rhythm.

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"Miss Jen" is Palm Beach Opera teaching artist Jennifer Wilson. And the story she’s reading is titled “The Magic Love Potion," derived from Gaetano Donizetti’s 19th-century opera “L’Elisir D’Amore.”

The filmed 10-minute session is part of Palm Beach Opera’s "Story Time" series — educational programs designed to introduce opera to kids in Pre-K to 5th grade.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the company switched the live classroom sing-alongs to a real-time virtual experience and also a videotaped format.

Now that schools are open and COVID positivity rates are down, the classroom sessions are back. But PBO has decided to keep the Zoom and videotaped "Story Time" sessions anyway.

Palm Beach Opera Education & Community Engagement Manager Kevin Eberle-Noel says those added formats offer schools more flexibility.

"We're very excited that this can be a supplement to our live programing," he said. "If we have teaching artist scarcity or very high demand, we now have a lot of different platforms through which we can engage with this program."

Palm Beach Opera's "Story Time" series — which features four operas — is available in English and Spanish.

In addition, PBO has similar plans to convert its "Concerts in the Classroom" series (designed for K-to-12 students) to a virtual format to reach more students.

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Click here for more information on Palm Beach Opera's educational programming, or contact education@pbopera.org

This interview is part of WLRN's reporting series called Second Act — an in-depth look at how South Florida's arts organizations have adapted during COVID-19. And how long-lasting those changes might become.

If you've got a story for us, please send an email to talktous@WLRNnews.org — with the words Second Act in the subject line.