The fifth grade’s yearlong interdisciplinary study of ancient Egypt and opera culminated in an impressive puppet opera — performed via prerecorded video — on Monday, June 1.
The opera took the Google Meet audience of fifth grade parents, students and middle school faculty through a dramatic and humorous story that the students wrote about various Egyptian gods and goddesses, roles played by the students’ artfully detailed puppets.
Due to remote learning, the students and faculty had to make several significant changes to their operas. Middle School Coordinator of Performing Arts Katie Meadows explained that students performed their parts a cappella, rather than with a piano or vocal accompaniment. “They had the option to speak their lines, but they challenged themselves,” Meadows said. “And they felt safe and supported in doing so – which I think says a lot about the culture we’ve created.”
Another change was that parents were asked to videotape their children’s performances and send the clips to middle school art teacher Bruce Robbins. In total, Robbins received more than 200 clips that he sorted through and compiled to create the 17-minute opera. “We could not have done this without the families, and I thank them from the bottom of my heart,” the art teacher said. “It was a labor of love for and with our students.”
After the puppet opera made its debut, Meadows, Robbins and fifth grade teacher Michaela Boller all expressed tremendous pride in the accomplishments of their students. “I am so proud of the fifth graders for singing in what is a challenging situation,” Boller said. “I hope that they can learn that even when we are given roadblocks, we can still persevere.”
Over the course of the school year, the students dove into the curriculum with a trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Fine Art’s Ancient Egyptian Wing and by attending an opera at the Metropolitan Opera House. They also studied the social, political, religious and economic structures of ancient Egypt; learned about dramatic structure and the various stages of the writing process; and, of course, created their Egyptian god and goddess puppets.