I know it doesn’t happen for every parent, so having a child who shares my passion for theater, music, books and arts and culture in general feels really good. As my daughter gets older (she’s 12 now), it’s exciting to share books that I remember treasuring when I was her age and also discovering all of the great new young adult fiction and non-fiction that’s been written since I was a kid.
Seeing live theater is one of my greatest pleasures (years ago, before I started blogging and writing non-fiction, I wrote several plays that were staged by professional theaters) and my daughter, and my older son (who has autism and has greatly benefitted from sensory-friendly theater) really appreciate the live theater experiences that we’ve enjoyed together as a family.
Recently, a friend invited us to join her for Opera Philadelphia’s “Opera on the Mall,” an annual event held on the lawn of Independence National Historical Park, across from Independence Hall. This free event features large screens that broadcast a recording of one of Opera Philadelphia’s performances—this year was “The Marriage of Figaro,” one of the few operas that I admittedly know some of the plot and music from.
My daughter has a beautiful voice and loves to sing and really appreciates musical theater. I have thought from time to time about taking her to an opera—but felt intimidated by a number of factors that prevented me from giving it much thought. First, I’ve never gone to see an opera and am mostly opera-illiterate. My father is a big opera fan and would play broadcasts from on our local NPR station on Saturday afternoons, but I never had the attention to sit and listen with him.
Second, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to invest in buying tickets to take my daughter if the experience would be inaccessible to her. Would she appreciate music that’s sung in another language? Would she have the attention to watch a full production?
When I brought up the possibility of checking out Opera on the Mall, she responded enthusiastically. We packed up picnic food to share with our friends and made a plan that we could leave before the end if we were tired or just not into watching the opera.
We were delighted to discover a new family-friendly experience in the heart of Philadelphia. Opera Philadelphia did a great job of making the entire experience family-friendly, from having welcoming volunteers greet and orient us to having a family zone set up with arts and crafts connected to Figaro and kazoo lessons to teach the kids some of the opera’s music. Plus there was a free photobooth with costumes to try on. And, great food trucks, plenty of portapotties with short lines and free stadium seats to make sitting on our blanket a little bit softer.
Sitting on the lawn, gazing at the sun go down on Independence Hall, I was proud of my daughter for opening her mind to this new experience and felt grateful to live in a city that offers so many arts and culture opportunities—and many of them are free. The lawn was covered with families like mine.
By the way, we stayed for the first hour and a half and then headed home, mostly because of my early bedtime. We’ve already decided to go back next year-and may check out a live opera before that.
Have you ever taken your child to an opera? I’d love to hear about your experience send the comments below.