Opera Memphis performed the opera “The Playground King” for Immanuel Lutheran School PK3-5th grade students on April 29. Characters Lily, Sam, Todd, and Max stop at the playground on their way home from school. When Max declares himself “The Playground King”, he excludes his friends from a playground fort. Lily, Sam, and Todd must figure out a way to get Max to stop the bullying behavior. Sam tries calling his dad but she cannot find her phone. Todd tries to reason with him, reading out all the playground rules, but Max overcomes Todd’s logic. Lily finally comes up with a game to find a mysterious trinket to lure their friend and Max is intrigued by the quest. Max ultimately chooses kindness and gives up his self-proclaimed throne.
The Director of Opera Memphis, Sarah Squire, set the story using both spoken dialogue and music. She wrote the lyrics to music composed by Georges Bizet, Domenico Cimarosa, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Jacques Offenbach, Giacomo Puccini, Sir Arthur Sullivan, Johann Strauss II, and Giuseppe Verdi. Some operas from which our students heard music included The Pirates of Penzance, Carmen, Rigoletto, Die Fledermaus, and Rigoletto. Our students were very engaged in watching the fast-moving performance and many of them were provided with their first exposure to opera. After the performance, the performers answered students’ questions about opera.