dpm is a Birmingham-based freelancer with experience of arts and lifestyle features.
Carmen in a dress and tango in the aisles
Welsh National Opera's Sunday afternoon concert is a fun and interactive event for children of all ages. Aiming to introduce children, and their respective parents, to opera and other classical music, it's a rapid trip through a host of well-known works with plenty of humour added in.
With pieces by Wagner, Bizet, Beethoven, Gershwin, Puccini and Mascagni, there is plenty of meaty music alongside some tunes more familiar to younger audiences including John Williams' 'Harry's Wondrous World' from the Harry Potter films.
This year's Family Concert at Birmingham Town Hall was fronted by musician and BBC Radio 3 presenter Tom Redmond and he did a great job of encouraging the audience onto their feet to take part.
To explain the 'Carmen Suite', he delved into a dressing-up box and donned a woman's dress to play Carmen and then a toreador's sparkling outfit to take on Escamillo. When we came to Anderson's 'Blue Tango', he had the audience doing their best to tango along the aisles and, encouraging the audience to join in with Denza's 'Funiculi, Funicula', he held up a card whenever the audience had to sing. But the finest moment had to be the audience taking on percussion roles to Herold's Clog Dance from the ballet La fille mal gardee, in which different sections of the audience recreated some of the sounds.
Involving children and adults in this way not only brings the music alive at that moment in time but hopefully also creates lasting memories for when they hear that music again. The family concerts are the lighter side of WNO. The orchestra, playfully conducted by a bare-footed Frederick Brown, are all decked out in their holiday garb with buckets and spades and flippers sharing the stage as Redmond explains the event has a holiday theme.
But among the fun, there are also some opera gems with Linda Richardson and Adriano Graziani performing the drinking song 'Brindisi' from La Traviata, a sultry 'Summertime' from Porgy and Bess and the ever-rousing 'Nessun Dorma' from Turandot.
Children from local schools were also involved, singing a medley Classy Classics composed by Gareth Glyn. Bearing in mind their presence throughout the event and the fact that many in the audience were their parents, siblings or other relatives, it was a shame the children weren't given more opportunity to showcase their talents – having a piece in the second part would have given them a second moment to shine.
WNO's Family Concert also includes face-painting for children so, along with the fun and games of the performance, it becomes a real event for families.