Lessons in opera

Things really haven't changed much for music teachers during the past 300 years. Kids still cut up in class. Notes are sometimes difficult to learn. And performing music is always worthwhile — for students and teachers alike.

Those are the lessons conveyed in "The Schoolmaster" by Baroque master Georg Philipp Telemann, to be performed today through Sunday by Opera Kansas, in partnership with the choir at Wichita Collegiate School. The short cantata will be paired with an hour-long, one-act parody opera, "The Ring of the Fettuccines," during the concert at Wichita Collegiate School.

The performance is intended to provide a succinct — and sometimes silly — introduction to grand opera.

"This program is for families with children," said Ed Ehinger, artistic director at Opera Kansas and stage director of the upcoming shows.

"The Ring of the Fettuccines," written by Dominic Meiman and Marie King, director of opera at Wichita State University, has been performed about 500 times during tours of the United States and Canada. It was presented at the Wichita River Festival in 2006.

The opera's plot mimics the sometimes outrageous scenarios of grand opera, using arias and ensembles "borrowed" from operas by Mozart, Donizetti, Verdi, Wagner and others.

"We thought of all the stock cliches that exist in all the opera plots of the great standard repertoire," Ehinger said. "Children see the fairy tale story. Adults can enjoy the gentle and loving parody."

"The Ring of the Fettuccines" features music from 17 standard operas. The company is offering a door prize to anyone who can correctly identify those operas, Ehinger said.

Opera Kansas presented music programs at 19 Wichita public schools this past school year, performing for 3,500 children. This is the first time Opera Kansas has partnered with Wichita Collegiate School.

"Our mission is to educate and develop audiences and artists for opera," Ehinger said.

"I thought it would be a great experience for the kids to actually take part in an opera, to learn about it by actually doing it. That's the most direct educational experience I can think of."

The professional cast of "The Ring of the Fettuccines" includes six Wichita singers, including several recent Wichita State grads. Tom Grubb will accompany on piano.

Jarl Moreland will take the title role in Telemann's "The Schoolmaster," supported by choristers from Wichita Collegiate.

Though the essence of music lessons has hardly changed since Telemann wrote "The Schoolmaster" in 1728, Opera Kansas has added a few updates to make it more relevant to kids today. Cell phones — the bane of concerts everywhere — make an appearance, and the intrepid schoolmaster must find a way to keep the melodies flowing uninterrupted.

If you go

opera kansas

What: One-act operas "The Schoolmaster" and "The Ring of the Fettuccines"

Where: Galicia Theatre, Wichita Collegiate School, 9115 E. 13th St.

When: 7:30 p.m. today-Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday

How much: Tickets are $10, $5 for children. For more information, call 316-644-0755.