"Soft and graceful and ladies singing."
January 13, 2012 10:25 AM   Subscribe

Operafilter: Soprano-heavy, French recs for a 5 y/o

The five year old kid I nanny is very picky about what type of music she likes, but also has unusual aptitude (for her age) for understanding music. I want to cultivate this interest. She likes music that is "soft and graceful and has ladies singing." Yesterday, through a new game I invented where we went through my music collection and vetoed/approved songs, I discovered that "soft and graceful" were codes for "high soprano" and "operatic singing."

The Flower Duet was the song that revealed that it was opera that she was after. And she loved this excerpt from Anna Bolena.

I have seen this previous thread and am taking notes.

So, MeFites: I need recommendations for operas that are heavy on the soprano parts, but would also love if they met these requirements:

- Sung in French (she's bilingual French and English)
- Video recordings, especially if you think the operas are more kid appropriate than not (i.e. not highly sexualized, not a lot of representations of drinking/drunkenness, prostitutes/etc.)
- Video recordings with subtitles in French (twofer, boosting reading comprehension in general and in French)

I'm aware that the Metropolitan Opera has recorded performances in HD, but which ones should I get her?
posted by Betty's Table to Media & Arts (14 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Ravel's L'enfant et les sortileges is an opera aimed (in part) at kids. Not sure if that would really make that much of a difference to a 5 year old. The main part is mezzo-soprano, though, so I don't know if that fits the bill.
posted by yoink at 10:49 AM on January 13, 2012

The Magic Flute has a very kid-friendly story and the role of the Queen of the Night is amazing. It is not in French, though.

I like the production with Lucia Popp.
posted by winna at 10:51 AM on January 13, 2012

Oh, and here's a recent DVD, with sets by Maurice Sendak.
posted by yoink at 10:51 AM on January 13, 2012

Find the French version of Gluck's Orfeo e Eurydice. There was a recording of it with Jennifer Larmore.
posted by matildaben at 10:54 AM on January 13, 2012

This production of Gluck's Orfee et Eurydice (his original french language version of the opera--there is also an Italian language version) features a mezzo-soprano and a soprano in the two lead roles (originally written for a countertenor and soprano).

Beautiful music, but the action might seem a little slow and confusing for a five year old.
posted by yoink at 10:56 AM on January 13, 2012

She might also get a kick out of Gounod - the Jewel aria from Faust and Je Veux Vivre from Romeo et Juliette.
posted by matildaben at 10:56 AM on January 13, 2012

Oh, and Pelleas and Melisande (Debussy) is another obvious option.
posted by yoink at 10:59 AM on January 13, 2012

Art songs, too - Cecilia Bartoli did an album called Chant d'Amour that might be a good start. Oh, and Les Contes d'Hoffman - Olympia's aria.
posted by matildaben at 11:05 AM on January 13, 2012

Best answer: Do you want recommendations of whole operas? Operatic selections? Compilation albums of French operatic selections?

For whole operas there are Bizet's Carmen (although the main role is for mezzo-soprano and it gets loud in the later acts) and Les pêcheurs de perles. Offenbach's Les contes d'Hoffmann might have some stuff in there. Delibes's Lakme has the famous duet as well as the "bell song." Massenet's most famous are Manon and Werther (the latter featuring mezzo-soprano), and there is also Thaïs. Charpentier's Louise has the famous aria "Depuis le jour." Gounod has Faust and Roméo et Juliette.

For recital recordings, you might like La Belle Époque (The Songs of Reynaldo Hahn) with mezzo-soprano Susan Graham; Carnaval! French Coloratura Arias and Les Bijoux, both with soprano Sumi Jo; French Opera Arias with soprano Natalie Dessay or similarly-titled collections with sopranos Regine Crespin, Kiri Te Kanawa, Mady Mesplé, Montserrat Caballé, or Joan Sutherland.
posted by slkinsey at 12:10 PM on January 13, 2012

Faure's la chanson d'eve song cycle.

Rue de cascades because floaty female vocals + I think kids get pretty into the the time of Tiersen.
posted by Katine at 12:50 PM on January 13, 2012

Oh yeah, those Sumi Jo recordings that slkinsey refers to are a total hoot - fun and colorful, I bet a kid would love them.
posted by matildaben at 2:40 PM on January 13, 2012

Response by poster: @slkinsey: All of the above, but with a preference for whole operas sung in French. Thanks for all your suggestions!
posted by Betty's Table at 3:32 PM on January 13, 2012

Best answer: My almost 3 year old daughter has been into opera for a year or so now. This largely came about due to the mezzo-soprano in Lemony Snicket's 13 Words.

RAI's production of La Traviata, starring Anna Moffo has been a long time favorite here. Ms. Moffo's performance, in my untrained ear's opinion, has a lot of the vocal aspects you are looking for. The first act in particular is really fun, since it's a fancy party. The movie's also shot quite nicely. If you're looking for any sort of video, I would strongly recommend one that was produced as a movie on purpose, as opposed to a taped stage performance. Although it is sung in Italian, La Traviata at least takes place in France.

The first opera that came to mind when I read your question was Bizet's Carmen. It's in French, and has a number of "classic" arias. My only hangup in your case would be that it's not a delicate opera by any measure, either vocally or plot-wise.

I would second the above recommendation to check out mezzo-soprano Ceceila Bartoli. We have checked out this CD from the library multiple times.

My last comment is slightly off topic, but I would see if there are any free vocal recitals in your area. Often conservatory students give them, and are they are usually listed on university events calendars. One afternoon last spring, I took my daughter to see a soprano sing. It was a pretty big deal for my two year old, even though she got a little fidgety after three songs.
posted by eelgrassman at 9:53 PM on January 17, 2012

off to the side of this, in case you ever want to take it in a different direction....

Dead Can Dance (and/or Lisa Gerrard)
Mediaeval Baebes
posted by batmonkey at 8:10 PM on January 18, 2012

« Older Fun in the Louisville,KY area   |   Gold teeth and a curse for this town were all in... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.