"It's a rush!"
That's how Stephanie Migdail, 14, describes the performances she and the other kids will put on at the end of the Opera Camp for Kids, which she has attended for three years now.
Two campers who will feel that "rush" for the first time are Jacob Temple of Fairfax and Sheldon Pearce of Alexandria, both 12. They are among 29 kids ages 10 to 14 who have spent the last four weeks getting ready to stage the world premiere of "The Enchantment of Dreams," an opera written for kids.
Since mid-July, kids from the District, Maryland and Virginia became a family at the Washington National Opera's studio in Takoma Park. Five days a week, for six hours each day, they got to know one another between voice lessons, makeup classes and rehearsals. They also did yoga and art projects, including a collage on their own dreams for the future.
Jacob chose opera camp after teachers at his school suggested that or leadership camp. "I like singing a lot better," he said.
Sheldon also wound up at the camp because of his teachers. "His teachers at Lane Elementary kept telling me I should get him some singing lessons because whenever he sang to classmates on their birthdays, he did it in this very dramatic voice," said his mom, Lucretia.
Music teachers often are the reason kids apply to opera camp. Four other boys at camp -- 10-year-olds Alex Gales, Kenneth James and Ronald Manigan, and Christopher Wheeler, 12 -- are members of the D.C. Boys Choir. Their teacher, Eleanor Stewart, encouraged them to apply.
What's so great about opera camp?
"It's really fun," said Jacob. "People bring in tongue-twisters and then they make it into a tune and put movement with it."
"The yoga was very relaxing. It helped me a lot because sometimes I get really tense on stage, and yoga helps me relax and focus," Sheldon said.
The camp seems to be a dream come true for their parents, who may be even more excited than the kids about the performances.
"My parents invited everyone we know . . . my grandparents, a whole bunch of relatives from my extended family, some people I don't even know," Jacob said. "A bunch of people will be staying at the house, so we have to do a lot of cleaning. Blecch!"
"My mom invited all 80 houses in our neighborhood," said Laura Squire, 12.
For the 14-year-olds, the final performances are sad because next year they'll be too old for the camp.
"If we continue, we have to go on to the Opera Institute," said Fairouz Foty, who will miss being in camp next year with her younger sister, Nadine. "There isn't one person at camp who I haven't talked with and become friends with," she said with a sigh.
Will Jacob and Sheldon be back next year? "I hope so," said Jacob. "Most definitely," said Sheldon.
-- Suzanne Tobin