Opera for Kids in November: EARTH TO KENZIE

If you had encountered opera at an early age, even as young as 7 years old, what difference would that exposure have made in your life? Lyric Opera of Chicago has been providing innovative educational and artistic programming for youth across the Chicago area for many years, reaching an average of 33,000 students each season. With the start of our new season comes a new wave of young operagoers that we’re eager to introduce to the art form.

Lyric will present its fourth original children’s opera – Earth to Kenzie – this fall. A co-commission with Seattle Opera, Earth to Kenzie was composed by Frances Pollock with a libretto by Jessica Murphy Moo. When 5th grader Kenzie and her mother have to move into a family shelter, Kenzie finds refuge in the world of video games alongside her avatar, Edwin. Through their imaginary space adventures, Kenzie discovers that home is not always a place, but rather wherever she is with the ones she loves.

Lyric's educational partner for Earth to Kenzie is Codeverse, the world's first fully interactive coding studio and development platform for kids ages 6-13. With Codeverse’s help, students will gain a better understanding of the technology that goes into games like the one Kenzie plays in the opera.

There are a few ways that students and the public can watch this engaging new opera in the coming weeks:

  1. Through Lyric's longtime Opera in the Neighborhoods program, Earth to Kenzie will be presented at 15 different venues across Chicago and surrounding suburbs. Educators can bring their students to one of two performances, 10am or 12pm at each venue free of cost, and are given curriculum resources ahead of time to introduce their students to opera. Students who attend will also receive access to free online resources through Codeverse. For more information, please visit lyricopera.org/OIN.
  2. Public performances, perfect for families with children ages 7-12, will take place on November 9 at 1pm and 3pm and November 10 at 3pm at Vittum Theater, 1012 N. Noble St. in Chicago's Noble Square neighborhood. Tickets begin at just $10. For more information, please visit lyricopera.org/Kenzie 

Earth to Kenzie touches on a lot of relevant themes for young people  overcoming personal challenges by facing fears; being proud of who you are; and the idea that home is not always a place. The Chicago Tribune recently published a startling article with data from the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless revealing that in the 2018/19 school year, 16,450 Chicago Public School students did not have a permanent home. As stated in the article, “Most were in temporary living situations, meaning they stayed in shelters, motels, cars or, in about 90% of the cases, 'doubled up' with others. Doubling up doesn’t generally meet the federal government’s definition of homelessness, so people in those situations don’t qualify for federal programs for those without homes.” You can also hear more about Chicago Coalition for the Homeless’s data and the story of child home security in Chicago through this WBEZ interview on Morning Shift.

Like far too many students living in Chicago, Kenzie and her mother receive an eviction notice and are forced to move out and find temporary housing in a family shelter. Through Earth to Kenzie, Lyric Opera of Chicago and co-commission partner Seattle Opera strive to raise awareness about housing insecurity and foster understanding that homelessness is something that happens to people, but is not who they are, something Kenzie comes to realize in the opera.

There are lots of important themes to explore through Earth to Kenzie, and Lyric is pleased to make that possible for thousands of students across Chicago in the next two months. Participating teachers and educators receive extensive resources to prepare their students for the opera, and some of these items may also be helpful for families or first-time operagoers of all ages.

  • Do you want to help prepare your child for the performance? Check out our Backstage Pass! study guide and program.
  • Interested in learning more about Earth to Kenzie’s educational partner, Codeverse? As part of our partnership, Codeverse has offered resources for teachers to give their students more insight on the world of coding, video game creation and app development. Check them out here!
  • Want to know more about the set design and creation of the video game world that Kenzie travels to with her avatar, Edwin? Watch the “Meet the Designers” video below!

Meet the Designers

We hope to welcome you to a performance of this new work. 

Major support provided by the Nancy W. Knowles Student and Family Performances Fund.

Earth to Kenzie and Opera in the Neighborhoods are supported by Lead Sponsor J. Christopher and Anne N. Reyes and cosponsors an Anonymous Donor, Sasha Gerritson and Eugene JarvisRobert and Evelyn McCullen, The Jane Wilson and David Mayhew Stone Charitable TrustRoberta L. and Robert J. Washlow, and Wintrust Community Banks.

Lyric Unlimited Chicago Public Schools Bus Scholarships are supported by the U.S. Bank Foundation.