You Should Take Your Kids to the Opera: Here’s How

I just took my 11-year-old to her first opera, and it was one of the sweetest bonding experiences we’ve ever had. We saw Portland Opera’s production of The Snowy Day, and I’ve never been more surprised by my own emotions than at this show. Here’s what made the night so special, and how you can experience it, too.

Credit: Christine Lyn Dong. Courtesy of Portland Opera

Experience vocal artistry at the highest level.

The Snowy Day is an adaptation of the iconic children’s book chronicling the magic of a winter day experienced by a young boy, Peter. I came to the opera expecting to be wowed by the vocal performances, but I was shocked by how moved I was. When my children were younger, I read The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats aloud dozens of times and never once cried, but when soprano Flora Hawk as Peter discovers the snowball he so carefully saved has melted, I got misty-eyed — over a snowball. When Lianna Wimberly Williams as Mama sings about her son Peter, it was all I could do not to squeeze my tween beside me and say, “That! That’s how much I love you!” (I managed to control myself, but only just.)

When people talk about the power of opera to evoke strong emotional responses, it’s not hyperbole.


Opera is for everyone.

There is no better introduction to opera than Portland Opera’s performance of The Snowy Day, whatever your age. Every seat in the Newmark Theatre has a great view, and the performance is in English with captions. With a length of just over an hour with no intermission, it’s also ideal for short attention spans. Within the program is a seek-and-find activity for “kids of all ages,” and my daughter and I kept poking each other as we saw the hidden gems during the performance. If you’re even a tiny bit intimidated by opera, this is the show for you. We felt perfectly at ease and welcome the whole time, and we saw every age represented in the audience. And even if your musical background is nonexistent, it’s impossible not to be aware of the truly unbelievable range and talent of these performers.

This show is a visual feast.

The set design by Amy Rubin is exquisite. It’s faithful to Keats’s award-winning illustrations, while adding truly genius elements, such as the origami snowballs that burst apart on impact. So much of this show is heartwarming and cozy, just like the book, and there are also  extra delights like the spooky and funny dream sequence made especially interesting by the costume choices by Jessica Jahn, and the laugh out loud physical humor exhibited in every scene by the talented cast.

The Snowy Day is iconic.

If you’re new to The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats, it’s iconic not only for its timeless narration of a perfect winter day, but because it was the first picture book published by a mainstream publisher that featured a Black protagonist. It won the Caldecott in 1963, the same year of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. I’ll admit I initially thought my daughter would be too old for the plot of this opera (how wrong I was!), but I knew she would never be too old for a performance celebrating representation.

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Get tickets.

Almost every seat was full on opening night, so don’t wait to get tickets! There’s only one weekend left.

The Snowy Day
Portland Opera | Newmark Theatre
Based on The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
Composed by Joel Thompson
Libretto by Andrea Davis Pinkney
March 22, at 7:30 p.m.
March 24, at 2:00 p.m.
Tickets prices start at $35.
Get tickets now.

Meg Asby
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