By Alkis Karmpaliotis
Founder of AppreciateOpera.org
When I was asked to review award-winning author and music educator Carolyn Sloan’s new children’s book, Welcome to the Opera: Discover the Enchanting World of Opera with Mozart’s ‘The Magic Flute’, I was immediately captivated. I was so intrigued by the concept of a book designed to teach young kids about opera; after all, promoting opera is a central purpose of this website. The book not only met but exceeded my expectations, bringing a smile to my face. Growing up with a deep passion for classical music, I would have loved to have a children’s book like this.
Welcome to the Opera is the latest volume of Sloan’s Welcome to… series, which includes the popular Welcome to the Symphony and Welcome to Jazz – both of which I wholeheartedly recommend.
Intended for children aged four and above, Welcome to the Opera follows the journey of three puppies as they attend a performance of Mozart’s The Magic Flute, educating the reader about the history of opera, the various elements of opera, and the story of Mozart’s masterpiece along the way. In the author’s note, Sloan explains, “When exploring which opera to use at [the book’s] anchor, it was clear that Mozart’s beloved classic The Magic Flute was the best option. Its fairy-tale nature, larger-than-life characters, and remarkable score make for an unforgettable experience at the opera.”
The book introduces various key opera terms and teaches the reader about all the different aspects of opera, including voice types, costumes, and plot. It even explains, humorously and charmingly, why people shout “Bravo!” at the end of performances, with a more knowledgeable dog explaining to one of the puppies – much to the puppy’s surprise – that it is perfectly acceptable to yell at the conclusion of the opera. A particularly noteworthy element of the book is its last page, containing a wonderful “Why Sing?” section that discusses the power and significance of singing, a “Meet Mozart” section with a brief and engaging biography of the great composer, and a summary of all the operatic terminology covered throughout the book.
Perhaps the book's best feature is its interactive sound tab on the right side, which allows children to listen to the opera as they read. Each new term introduced in the story is accompanied by a number which corresponds to a sound button, enabling the reader to put sound to terms such as “overture,” “flute,” and “coloratura soprano.” The singing is in English, allowing children to further immerse themselves in the story in a way that would not be possible with a foreign language, and was all recorded from scratch by a group of incredible musicians acknowledged on the last page.
Also central to the book were Kaly Quarles’s magnificent illustrations. With vibrant and colorful artwork, Quarles puts thought and care into each character’s individual expressions and mannerisms, adding an incredible visual dimension to the story.
Seamlessly combining words, music, and visuals to give the reader a truly immersive experience, Welcome to the Opera is an absolute gem and deserves a place in every elementary school classroom around the world. I highly recommend it!
Buy it here!
I'm Alkis Karmpaliotis, a Junior at the Ethical Culture Fieldston School and the founder and Editor-in-Chief of AppreciateOpera.org. You can read more about me and my work here! Reach out to me with any products, records, or performances you want me to review.