We all know that music education has essentially vanished from public schools, but Michael Schwartz, the director of the music program at Great Neck South High School on Long Island, apparently didn't get the memo. Year 38 of the school's live annual opera performance features "The Magic Flute," with sets, costumes, orchestra — the whole shebang. Sung in German, no less! The recitative's been abbreviated, the spoken dialogue abridged and translated into English, and a couple of arias transposed to accommodate a teenage tenor's range, which changes daily. Other than that, it's all there.
Yes, of course, Great Neck is one of the country's wealthiest suburbs. Not every school can field an orchestra (an oversize one, for Mozart), fit the singers out with wireless body mikes, or attract teachers as tireless as Schwartz or vocal director Pamela Levy. Not every school can cast a Pamina who has been taking singing lessons since she was in first grade. But what other schools could do is help kids connect with music through having them perform it. Eleventh grader Jordan Rochelson, Great Neck South's Papageno, is a natural stage animal, but he told me that he started out with zero interest in opera. He said: "Now I’m so happy that a love of classical music has been instilled in me . . . um, forced on me, I guess.”
More on this story here, including an impressive clip from last year's "Carmen," as sung by Nikki Blonsky (who went on to win a starring role in the forthcoming movie version of Hairspray).