On the Big Stage

September 18, 2017


Nicholas, Theo, and Darwin getting ready to rehearse for TurandotEarlier this month, CAIS fifth graders went on a field trip to attend a dress rehearsal of SF Opera’s production of Turandot. On Friday, September 15, Music and Movement Teacher Susan Kennedy graciously interviewed four CAIS fifth graders who are performing in the production at SF Opera. She shared, “It was an impressive pleasure to have this discussion with fifth graders Darwin D., Francisca L., Theo L., and Nicholas P. who obviously not only enjoy participating in opera, but are very knowledgeable about conductors, directors, and the relative merits of various productions. Bravo!”


Ms. Kennedy: How did you all get involved in this production?

Theo: We’re in SF Boys’ Chorus and SF Girls’ Chorus. Our teachers recommended us and we started work during the summer. Nicholas and Darwin joined the project along with Francisca, then I decided it would be fun to do this with them. 

ALL: It sounded really interesting!

Nicholas: They sent us links to videos of productions by the Royal Opera (London) and the Metropolitan Opera (NYC).

Darwin: I saw the Met Opera version; the sets, costumes and staging were all very different. Huge stage!

Theo: I saw Royal House version, they had a really big balcony. 

Francisca's costume fitting for TurandotFrancisca: Liked the Royal costumes, simpler but more like real Chinese clothes.

(All agreed that the costumes and set were very different in the David Hockney ones in the SF production.)

Nicholas: All the music was in Italian, even Jasmine Flower. Puccini got a music box with Chinese songs and used those melodies but made up new lyrics in Italian.

Darwin: We were playing the role of young monks, asking Turandot to stop killing.


Ms. Kennedy: What was it like to be spending a lot of time in rehearsals during the day and missing school?

Francisca: Studio school was not as interesting as CAIS, but it’s a law that we have to spend some school time each day we’re there, so there’s a tutor for all the kids.  We were the youngest kids there.

Nicholas: There was a Chinese teacher but the Chinese lessons were too easy.


Ms. Kennedy: What was the rehearsal process like, especially working with so many adults, and with live music?

Darwin: There were different kinds of rehearsals, like with the adult chorus, then onstage with the sets… 

Nicholas: There was a piano tech rehearsal, and a piano dress rehearsal…

Francisca: There were only two dress rehearsals: one with just a piano, then one with the whole orchestra

Theo: Sometimes the orchestra got super-loud!


Ms. Kennedy: How did it feel to be performing in the opera house, in front of your classmates and other people?

Theo: The first time you go onstage it’s really cool

Darwin: From the audience it looks small, but onstage it’s huge.

Francisca: We couldn’t see where the CAIS kids were sitting at first. 

Nicholas: There are a total of 40 kids in the chorus, but only 27 are onstage, including us.  The rest are in the wings as chorus with the adult chorus.

Theo: The backstage is huge!

Darwin: They taught us how to put our own make-up and costumes on after we arrive.  We have to make sure we’re ready in time!

Nicholas: I worried that backstage I might miss my call – there are so many people, but there is a whole call system that helps us know when to be ready.

Theo: My dad told me not to trip, so I spent the whole time scared that I would trip. Luckily, so far I haven’t!


Ms. Kennedy: Any big performances coming up after Turandot finishes in December?

Darwin: Boys’ Chorus prepares a lot to sing in operas, like La Boheme and Carmen.

Francisca: The Girls’ Chorus will sing with the Home Alone movie at the symphony this December. 

ALL: We have a Turandot performance tonight!