Remy Karyo participated in Seattle Opera’s spring break camp, which was held from April 8-12 at the nonprofit’s new Seattle Opera Center.
Remy Karyo participated in Seattle Opera’s spring break camp, which was held from April 8-12 at the nonprofit’s new Seattle Opera Center.

Seattle Opera resumed its opera camp for children during Seattle Public Schools’ April spring break, putting space at its new center on Mercer Street to use in serving some of its youngest patrons.

Seattle Opera’s Youth & Family Programs manager Sara Litchfield said the camp was full during its run from April 8-12. Seventeen kids in grades 1-4 formed an “Artful Explorers” group, and another 17 in grades 5-8 were the “Maestros.” Opera camp focuses on building children’s skills with respect to storytelling and song.

“We’re building skill-sets — how to use bodies, voices and imaginations, and how to work together,” said teaching artist Chelsea LeValley. 

LeValley, an actor, was joined by four other faculty members in working with the kids, providing vocal, theatrical and movement training. The faculty included: music director Liz Fraser, choreographer Sapphire Goetz, pianist Li-Cheng Hung and teaching assistant Cassie Willock.

The campers sang some opera, as well as some songs from musical theater, including Rogers and Hammerstein’s “Impossible,” from their 1957 production, “Cinderella.” Musical theater is directly descended from opera.

Litchfield said one of opera’s distinguishing characteristics is its large vocal range.

“We are very mindful of the music we choose,” Litchfield said. “Having a 6-year-old sing Verdi is not a great idea … We want to make sure your child is ready to sing opera.”

Each group had its own, age-appropriate curriculum during the spring camp, and both groups focused on creating new versions of the Cinderella story. The Maestros gave their story a new setting and characters. The Artful Explorers adapted their story in a Mad-Lib fashion. They renamed characters and turned the ball into an elegant pizza party, where guests ate their pizza with forks and knives and drank tea with extended pinky fingers. Both groups had a chance to perform their stories at a sharing for family and friends in the Opera Center’s Tagney Jones Hall on the final day of camp.

“It’s not whether we mess up,” Fraser said. “It’s what we do when it happens. The show must go on.”

One of the Artful Explorers, Remy Karyo, 9, used his week at Opera Camp to work on stage fright. After a case of first-day jitters and a talk with his dad, he came back on Tuesday, April 9, ready to think positively and get the most from the week.

“I learned to think on the bright side and work on stage fright,” Karyo said. “I think it will help me in school. In music class, we have to use the stage.”

Remy’s sister, Sonya Karyo, 11, came to camp already loving singing and acting and with some stage experience.

“It was a chance to try something new,” she said.

Remy and Sonya both said they would like to return for another opera camp, giving the experience a thumbs up. Sonya said she would have liked to come back this summer, but already has plans.

 “I can’t do it this summer – I’m booked,” she said. “But, I would definitely come back next spring break.”

Seattle Opera will hold a summer opera camp from July 9-13. In addition to elementary and middle school groups, it will also have a teen performance workshop for ages 15-18.

More information about upcoming community programming, including a no-experience necessary “Carmen” sing-along on Saturday, April 27, and “Cinderella en España” – A Children’s Opera on June 23 and 29, can be found online at seattleopera.org

Seattle Opera will perform its final production of the 2018-19 season, Bizet’s “Carmen,” from May 4-19.