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Students Pemiere Galileo Opera

By Joyce Kryszak

Buffalo, NY – You might recall a story WBFO introduced you to last spring about an original opera being written by Buffalo school children. Well, after two years of research and collaboration, the Bennett Park Montessori opera project is ready for the stage. Mi Nonno Galileo premieres Thursday at the Science Museum with a cast of nearly seventy children.

The music was written by children from Bennett Park Montessori school in Buffalo. And it's being played mostly by the children. But don't stop being impressed yet. The students, as young as three, wrote the libretto too. And they perform it - in Italian.

For those of us who don't speak Italian, this is a an opera about the grandson of the revolutionary astronomer Galileo. Inspiration for the story came from a book called Galileo's Daughter.

But the students pulled the opera from the heights of their own imagination and talent.

Glenn McClure is the teaching artist who guided the project. But he said that's all he did.

And he said the most beautiful part is that the opera is truly in a child's voice - from inception to delivery.

The chorus of children proceed from the back of the darkened auditorium with electric candles. Their voices, their dance and movement illuminate the words and ideas of the 16th century scientist against a backdrop of flash animation created by the students.

As you might expect, the children are excited and a bit nervous about the big premiere.

They talked about how they all support one another to make each other comfortable.

That teamwork and support was a crucial element to the project's success. And it is a foundation of learning at the Montessori school. But this multi-disciplinary project reached higher than the school has ever gone before.

Creating the opera integrated everything from math and science to art, music and language. Judy Fix is Principal of the school. She said even the children are in awe of what they accomplished.

But the real test was in how students would link all their new skills and knowledge.

The children opted to bring heroes from the future to assist with advancing Galileo's ideas. McClure remembers the exact moment he knew that the children had discovered more than he ever could have hoped.

The children sacrificed a lot for their creation.

There were two years of intense research, writing and then rehearsing for hours on their free time. Cindy Ingalls is Executive Director of Muse, Musicians United for Superior Education. The group spearheaded the opera project.

She said the school is privileged academically. But she said it faces the same challenges of any urban school. There are children with special needs. Some are homeless. And others struggle to get support from home. But Ingalls said support is never lacking on stage.

McClure said children and adults alike have all come away with something very special from the experience.

"Mi Nonno Galileo" premieres to school audiences at the Science Museum Thursday. The public is invited to performances of the opera Friday night and on Saturday and Sunday.

Click the "listen" icon above to hear Joyce Kryszak's story now or use your podcasting software to download it to your computer or iPod.