Opera is for everyone, even for the little ones


Music in Early Childhood Education (from 0 to 6 years old) is omnipresent: children immerse themselves in it to learn tasks, the days of the week or their first words in English. From the catchy melodies that recite the days of the week to the traditional one that helps us with our first words in English:
chicken _

hen _

pencil _

and pen, pen .
Teachers take advantage of these easy and pre-existing resources because they have a playful function, they motivate children and help them remember. However, it is a use of music that does not initiate the little ones in musical learning. In addition, in my teaching experience, a large number of teachers perceive themselves to be unprepared to use music in their classes beyond these resources.

This is the starting point of the European project Erasmus+ Opera and Early Childhood Education: Building European Awareness through Music in Pandemic Times , in Spanish Ópera y Educación Infantil (OECE, 2021-23). The initiative proposes a first approach to classical music in the second cycle of Early Childhood Education (3-6 years) through opera.

The main purpose of the project is to initiate the youngest, their teachers and families in the opera as a vehicle of knowledge, with special interest in rural areas far from the main operatic centers, and achieve social inclusion and the creation of quality educational content. .

Stimulate interest in opera in children

The objectives of the project include the following:

  • Promote and generalize opera as a means of inclusion of the disadvantaged population, especially in rural areas.
  • Design and plan educational experiences related to opera that allow promoting access to culture for Early Childhood Education students in rural areas.
  • Stimulate a taste for quality music through educational practices, working on vocal, rhythmic and body language skills in the classroom.

Coordinated by the University of Oviedo from the Music Area, five other entities from three different countries participate in the project: Milano-Bicocca University and Associazione Lirica e Concertistica (AsLiCo) in Italy, The Academy of Music, Dance and Fine Arts in Plovdiv and State Opera Plovdiv in Bulgaria and Fundación Ópera de Oviedo in Spain.

In total, three academic centers of higher education and three operatic entities collaborate in this pioneering initiative in Europe with an interdisciplinary nature. Researchers and creatives from areas as diverse as musicology, music education, lyrical theatre, pedagogy, speech therapy, psychomotricity and telematic engineering participate in it.

All results will be accessible in 2023 in open format on the project website .

Rossini, puppets and family activities

The project is developed in three complementary blocks: performative, educational and professional training.

Regarding the first block, a co-production has been made around La Cenerentola (by the 19th century Italian composer Gioachino Rossini ), adapted for children from 0 to 6 years old and entitled Dolce Cenerentola .

Designed to bring opera closer to the little ones, it has been conceived as a puppet show that includes a singer (Cenerentola), several actors for secondary characters (stepsisters, stepfather, Dandini and Prince Ramiro) and a pianist (Alidoro). The work premiered in the three countries between December 2021 and February 2022 and will be accessible in 2023 through our platform .

Everyone learns: children, families and teachers

In the educational block, classroom materials have been created that can be developed over 10 weeks. With the Dolce Cenerentola production as a base, we have applied the methods of composers and music educators Jacques Dalcroze , Karl Orff , Shinichi Suzuki and Edwin Gordon .

In addition, the teaching staff will have the support of audiovisual material to train and collaborate with the families involved, which will help them with specific activities to carry out at home, thus strengthening the ties between the family and the center.

Lastly, important work has also been developed in this block around an application based on Dolce Cenerentola , designed for children from 0 to 6 years old. The child user will control a character and will be able to move it with his finger through different scenarios, from his place of residence to the theater and the performance of Dolce Cenerentola . The stages will also have different non-controllable characters.

Regarding the third block, professional training, intense work has been carried out around the creation of materials available for participating teachers with the aim of facilitating the understanding of the activities and objectives for teachers without previous musical knowledge from a musical perspective. musical, psychomotor, emotional, linguistic, inclusive and gender.

Open and available content

The European Opera and Early Childhood Education project is a pioneer in Europe. It aims to bring opera closer to children and their close environment, their family and their educational environment, in rural societies and times of pandemic.

All materials related to the project will be accessible on our website in 2023, in an open format and in the different languages ​​of the project, as well as in English. It will be possible to take it to schools or children’s centers that want it.

The researchers and creatives who participate in the initiative work to promote an inclusive and open European society based on our rich and consolidated cultural heritage. The fact that opera overcomes the stigmas and stereotypes associated with it and enters Early Childhood Education classrooms is a first step towards achieving this.

Author Bio: Laura Miranda is Professor of the Department of History of Art and Musicology at the University of Oviedo