By Sarina Trangle
A dozen third graders encircled the grand piano and watched as Michaela Harel, a music teacher at Multiple Intelligence School, PS/MS 37, played five chords, each louder than the one before.
“Do you remember what a crescendo is?” Ms. Harel asked the class on Dec. 13. “It’s going to come up in the opera.”
She pressed down the same keys, producing a series of sounds that echoed around the auditorium.
“You start soft and then go loud,” one student said.
Ms. Harel spent class time preparing third graders to attend the final dress rehearsal for the Metropolitan Opera’s abbreviated, kid-friendly, English version of Gioachino Rossini’s The Barber of Seville on Dec. 14. As a MET educator, Ms. Harel brings students to watch professional musicians prepare for their opening nights.
Over the course of the year, she has so far taken one group of eighth graders to see L’Elisir d’Amore cast members practice and another to attend a rehearsal of Aida, which featured live horses on stage.
PS/MS 37 students will also get to attend a Le Comte Ory rehearsal and tour the backstage of the MET, as well as watch cast members prepare for La Traviata.
The Dec. 13 class started with a lesson on opera etiquette. Students reminded one another not to eat in the theatre, not to use phones and when it was appropriate to applaud.
Ms. Harel then gave students a little background on the composer, Gioachino Rossini. She said he was born in Italy a year after the death of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who was a child star and traveled around the world like Michael Jackson, earning money for his family by performing in castles.
Rossini’s composition skills were so advanced that it was easier for him to write a new page of music if he dropped one than to retrieve the sheet, Ms. Harel said.
Students then began studying the opera’s title.
“Who knows what a barber is?” Ms. Harel asked.
“It’s when they cut your hair,” Jordan Lane said.
“And what colors are on the pole outside of barbers?” Ms. Harel said.