I was a theater major (turned banker), so naturally I enjoy music and performance, and my husband is a big opera fan. We're also parents to two toddlers, so music is an essential part of our family life. Before kids, my husband and I used to go to a dozen shows each opera season, and now we still go to half dozen shows as a date night, sans kids. (I know some who have parents tried, but personally I don’t think it is wise to take kids under five to the opera.)
While my kids are too young to step inside the Civic Opera House, we often play opera for them. There are numerous studies about the "Mozart effect" on brain development in children, so I won’t go there. For me, there are simply three benefits to exposing my children to opera:
They learn to focus
Most of the opera shows have dramatic voices and movements and fancy costumes, which catch kids’ attention. In the digital world of overstimulation, I always wonder how our kids are going to learn if they can hardly focus. Some operas have unbearably long pieces, so start with one you like and truncate them into a 3-minutes spans to play for your kids. Here is my playlist of four well-known pieces I play for my kids often. My almost three-year-old practices her vocals after I play them every time.
They learn another language
If you are type A or multicultural parents (or both, like me), you're likely keen to start the second language as early as newborn. Studies show early childhood foreign language learning provides higher academia achievement and positive cultural enrichment. And almost all the opera masterpieces are in Italian, Spanish, French or German, so besides learning to count in Spanish from 1 to 10, kids can also learn words from master composers.
They learn about romance
Opera is all about LOVE! Our country need it so much, especially in this political climate. All operas somehow involve romance. A tenor could sing for 15 minutes about how much he adores the eyes of his lover (who does that now?). Unfortunately, somebody has to die at the end of the story, for the big love sacrifice.