Laura Horton’s grandmother always dreamed of becoming an opera singer.
Today, Horton’s 10-year-old daughter, McCall, is living her great-grandmother’s deferred dream.
“My grandmother was a professional singer and she wanted to be in the opera,” said Laura Horton, an attorney who lives with her family in Coral Gables. “Though she passed away this year, when I hear the opera, I feel like I hear my grandmother’s voice. It’s very meaningful to me that my daughter is taking over her footsteps.”
McCall is one of 20 choristers ages 8 to 12 who are performing with the Florida Grand Opera in its production of Puccini’s La Bohème at the Adrienne Arsht Center and the Broward Center for the Performing Arts. The children are members of the Miami Children’s Chorus (MCC), based in Coral Gables and conducted by music director Timothy Sharp.
The chorus and opera have had a partnership for nearly 30 years, said Alejandra Serna, a spokesperson for the opera.
“Rehearsals with the children's chorus has been excellent and I have been very impressed with them,’’ said Ramon Tebar, conductor for La Bohème and music director of FGO.
The children are featured during Act II, which features lovers Mimì and Rodolfo and their friends at a Parisian café, amid street vendors, street urchins and crowds.
“Act II of La Bohème is always difficult,” Tebar said. “The music is very fast and they have to move and run on stage during the whole act while singing. It can prove difficult for the adult choristers, but for the children it's as easy as eating ice cream. It's a joy making music with them.’’
The children have become captivated by the art form.
“Whenever I talk about the opera at school no one really knows about it,” said Zelda Rosenberg, 9, a fourth grader at David Fairchild Elementary in Coral Gables. “Whenever I talk about it they really don’t take interest in it. They’re more into rock bands and sports.”
The children also are exposed to foreign languages. La Bohème is performed in Italian; subtitles are shown in English and Spanish.
“I get to sing in Italian, and that’s not something you get to do every day,” said Alejandra Vivanco, 11, who had one line to sing in the production.
“I’m excited and nervous, but mostly excited,” said Alejandra, a student at Jorge Mas Canosa Middle School, immediately before the Nov. 17th opening night performance at the Arsht.
Though she only had one line to sing, she practiced and practiced to perfect her part.
“At first I was not doing it so well, so I had to keep working until I got it right,” she said. “But, now I am confident about myself and I’ve been told that I’m doing it better.”
She has been a member of the Miami Children’s Chorus for three years; this is her first opera.
McCall, a fourth grader at Coral Gables Preparatory Academy, joined the Chorus in August and has fallen in love with the opera.
“I like the way the adults and the kids combine the singing,” she said. “Also, I like being on stage.”
For MCC business manager Viviana Liviero, the experience with FGO has been just as memorable. Though Liviero is now employed with MCC, she remembers when she would watch her own daughter perform at the opera.
“I was in the other side and then in the office,” Liviero said. “She was lucky to be chosen twice. This is just a phenomenal opportunity for the children.”