Monday, August 08, 2005

Kid Culture

Rossini's Il Viaggio à Reims at Lincoln Center

Taking preschoolers to a full-length opera, in Italian no less, is an assumed recipe for disaster —- but according to Cyndie Bellen-Berthézène, the young ones can learn the music and story beforehand in a playful environment. And season after season for the past eight years, she’s been proving her theory through a program called, Hi Art!, a series of classes that combine classical music, movement, and fine art, ending in a live, professional performance, often at Lincoln Center. The month of August has already kicked off the series beginning with a little-known Rossini opera, Il Viaggio à Reims, the story of a comical grouping of international guests on their way to a king’s coronation. Kids ages 2 to 12 will spend the morning listening to small doses of the opera and create their own interpretations. Field trips to art galleries are included in the program. When the preschoolers leave at noon, the big kids at Hi Art!’s Chelsea studio embark on a large-scale project related to the opera, be it a giant sculpture, building model stage sets, or designing period costumes. (For inspiration, Bellen-Berthézène lines the white walls of the studio with the works of grown-up artists in need of exposure.) Come September, participants will go to a matinee of Il Viaggio at the New York City Opera, where they’ll also get a backstage tour. “Nothing is dumbed down here,” she says. “We don’t abridge, we don’t make baby versions of things at all.” But is this pushing kids into something they really aren’t ready for? “We are simply allowing kids to do something of a very high quality with the pleasure that they would learn to do everything else. There’s no pressure to become an expert in opera. But after this, you can certainly take your 2-year-old to an opera.”

Hi Art!, is at 601 W. 26th St., near. Eleventh Ave., Studio 1425I, 212-362-8190 or; prices vary depending on class. Sessions begin 8/1, 8/15, and 8/29.

My heartfelt condolences to the family of esteemed ABC News anchorman, Peter Jennings, who yesterday succumbed to his battles with lung cancer. Clearly, and after so many pokes and jabs this talented Canadian-born journalist and host of ABC's World News Tonight has taken over the years due to the fact that he never attended college, in my view he certainly outshined many news anchors and journalists over the years -- who supposedly did.
He will surely be missed.

Peter Jennings

Let's make it a good Monday, all. Peace.

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