This year, the Springs School’s annual fourth-grade opera is the stuff of dreams.
What started out as a time-traveling biography concept has morphed into “A Dream for the Future,” in which three children dream that their heroes visit them and give them practical advice.
An aspiring ballerina has an imaginary conversation with Misty Copeland, the famous dancer; a would-be soccer star has the same with Megan Rapinoe, a pro soccer player; a future writer has one with J.K. Rowling, the creator of the “Harry Potter” world. The surprise ending, which won’t be spoiled here, calls into question whether the dreams were actually real.
“So often kids are asked what they want to be when they grow up, and it’s a hard question to answer,” said Meghan Lydon, a Springs teacher who has served as the opera coordinator for five years now. “We all know that sometimes as adults we still don’t know. We challenged the writers to see what characteristics these people have that help them achieve success.”
The kids seemed to be fascinated by biographies of famous figures they learned about last year in third grade, but also seemed to be inspired by fantasy tales, Ms. Lydon said.
The opera is “a project they care a lot about,” she said.
The curtain will rise on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at East Hampton High School for a free performance that is open to the public. The kids will also perform the opera next Thursday morning at 9 for students only.
Every fourth grader is involved in the production in some way. They are writers, music composers, set designers, costume designers, marketing strategists, fund-raisers, stagehands, and, of course, actors.
“What I’m learning is that the opera is kind of complicated and hard, but fun. It’s complicated in a good way,” said Adrie Quinn, a writer and a performer. “I think the message of our story is to believe in yourself and let your dreams fly.”
Keilani Marin, a performer who plays the role of Ms. Copeland, said the most challenging part of the opera is remembering the timing of scenes and memorizing lines.
“I’m learning to not be shy — to be confident,” Keilani said.
Peyton Sadowski, a composer and performer, said the students did a lot of research first so they could figure out how Ms. Copeland, Ms. Rowling, and Ms. Rapinoe would speak and what kind of music would correspond to their characters.
But their production schedule is a little harrowing, Peyton said. The opera used to be performed in January, then it was moved to December, and now it’s in November. The change occurred because Springs started a middle school musical program, for which auditions are in December.
“It’s a little nerve-racking,” Peyton said. “We all have to work our hardest.”
A team of adults, including other Springs School teachers and community members, help out with the production. The performers have been rehearsing after school in the music room, a space no wider than 15 or 20 (grown-up) paces, which is also crammed with drums and a tall rack of strings and other instruments. A new music room is on the way as part of a $23 million construction project, on which the district hopes to break ground in March of 2020.
As kids rehearsed a song based on “This Little Light of Mine” last Thursday, Ms. Lydon said, “We’re in tight quarters. The students have to be flexible and adaptable, and take direction quickly.”
The fourth-grade opera, now a tradition for 23 years, puts a lot of responsibility in the hands of a group of determined 9-year-olds.
“Kids are creators and innovators,” Ms. Lydon said. “They seem to take a lot from it.”