Philip Van Lidth de Jeude, a mountain of a man in flowing brocade, bugs out his eyes and opens his mouth.
"HERE COMES THE OMELETTE," booms the bearded baritone, singing the part of the magistrate of Padua in Georges Bizet's "Doctor Miracle."
At Wolf Trap Farm Park's Theatre in the Woods, a cranny shaded by towering oaks, tenor George Gray as Captain Silvio, an officer of the Dragoons -- but now disguised as a servant to woo the magistrate's pretty daughter -- fumbles clownishly on stage with a tray.
"HERE COMES THE OMELETTE," mezzo Adelle Nicholson, as the stepmother Veronique, sings ravenously.
"HERE COMES THE OMELETTE," soprano Debra Vanderlinde, as the lovelorn Lauretta, puts in sadly.
"HERE IS THE OMELETTE," Gray warbles, and lifts up the cover to reveal a spongey yellow mound.
Some kids in the audience giggle. Others stand raptly on wooden benches and watch. Still others, screaming, fly hither and yon through the amphitheater, picking things out of the dirt to wave in their parents' faces. But everybody seems to be having a good time.
"It's wonderful to sing for kids," Gray said later. "They're so responsive, and so ingenuous in their response."
Park ranger Mark Juchniewicz agreed. "So far, things are going pretty well," he said as he stood vigil to the side of the proceedings. "Just as long as I can keep them from throwing stones and sticks at the stage, that's all I care about."
With Bizet's one-act light romance, the Wolf Trap Opera Company was passing on the musical form to minors. This Saturday, the company will give a repeat performance of "Doctor Miracle," and in coming weeks will present an introductory program, "O Is for Opera," and Haydn's "Apothecary."
Jo Mata, along with her six-year-old daughter, Nicki, volunteered to pass out programs for the show the other day. "It's great to see how engrossed the kids get," she said. "You know, a child's concentration is so short -- maybe 10 seconds -- it's an amazing thing when you can keep it."
"I'm just helping my Mom," Nicki said as she did her job, adding that the opera was "fine." In the end, she sat through "Doctor Miracle" ter seen an opera before?" she asked. "I'd like to have you pay attention. This is something that you can spend your whole life doing, you know."
OPERA FOR KIDS AT WOLF TRAP This Saturday, at 11 and 1, the Wolf Trap Opera Company performs Bizet's "Doctor Miracle," and follows up on August 7 with "O Is for Opera," and on August 14 with Haydn's "Apothecary." It's free but reservations are required. Call 703/281-5587.