24 January 2013

theater and musical performances for kids


watching a professional performance can inspire your kids in their own theatrical endeavors

After the holidays, I like to have some exciting activities lined up to counter the after-Christmas blues. Last year I started the tradition of taking the kids to the theater a few days after Christmas. My mother took me to the Nutcracker every year. But they don't always do the Nutcracker in Zurich and I have boys who are not so interested in tutus. So I had to make some adjustments and I think it's a good compromise. Here is a summary of a few of my experiences.

The Bernhard Theater at Hechtplatz next to the Zurich Opernhaus usually has a couple children's musical productions each year. In general, I like the Bernhard Theater as a venue. Instead of traditional rows of theater seats, it has movable chairs set around tables (5 chairs around each table). You can eat and drink in the theater. They sell food, but I've always also brought my own snacks and no one seems to care. Having food really helps young children enjoy the experience.



This year we saw S'Dschungelbuch (Jungle Book) musical at the Bernhard Theater, which was particularly fun because I had just finished reading the Jungle Book to my boys (which is a fantastic read-aloud by the way). It's a musical with lots of dancing and fun animal costumes. My kids were excited to meet some of the characters after the show. It is all in Swiss German, which was difficult for me but fine for my boys who are in the Swiss school and understand it. It is playing in Zurich through the end of the month, then touring. We got tickets the day of the show though it's probably better to buy beforehand.

A few of my friends saw Pippi Longstocking at the Bernhard Theater and really liked it. It was sold out, so I'll try to catch it next year if it tours. Last year, we saw De chli Isbär (The Little Polar Bear) at the Bernhard Theater and liked it. It's touring around Switzerland this year, so not playing in Zurich. Check the website for locations. My boys had read the De chli Isbär picture books and seen the films, but it wasn't necessary as the plot was fairly simple.



My husband and 8 year old son also went to Schatzinsel (Treasure Island) opera at the Zurich Opernhaus. As far as I can tell, the Zurich Opernhaus does one child-friendly opera each year, aka "Kinderoper," suitable for children 6 and older. Last year, they did The Magic Flute. I'm not a huge opera fan, but I like the idea of introducing my children to various art forms. I had a good report from my son. It helped that he was old enough to read the super-titles (in German), since opera singing can be hard to understand. There are a few more performances for this opera through July, but there are very few tickets available. I think they announce the Kinderoper in late summer, so I'm going to make sure to check their website so I can get better seats next time. My other friend Fiona went to the Hansel an Gretel workshop at the Opernhaus with her girls and said it was fantastic.

I've had several friends recommend Theater Pur Pur, which is a small theater in Zürich Enge. They have performances (in German) almost every Wednesday afternoon, sometimes on Sundays. They do dramatized story telling, live theater, theater workshops for children, etc. They also do birthday parties. My 5 year old went to a birthday party there and apparently had a "great time" though he couldn't really articulate what they did besides play games. I thought it was a little weird that they didn't let the parents (even of the birthday child) watch the games. They had to wait outside in the cafe.



The Zurich Tonhalle occasionally has Kinderkonzerts, usually on Sunday. My friend Kim took her boys to the Peter und der Wolf last November and I was so jealous! Kim says: "Peter and the Wolf was very interactive in the beginning. Sandra Studer, the famous Swiss newscaster and narrator on many children's CDs, was the host. She introduced the conductor and then the conductor explained each instrument and they did a little demonstration on how you could copy the sound of each instrument so the garden hose was similar to the French horn I think. Then they started playing and there was no more interaction just music." The picture above shows her son helping to demonstrate how a hose and funnel can sound like a french horn.



Last year, my older son's second grade class along with many other Zurich second grade classes had a series of workshops at the Tonhalle, trying out instruments and learning songs. This culminated with a performance with the orchestra at the Tonhalle, with families invited to watch (for free!). The orchestra played various "kid-friendly" classical pieces and the conductor spoke a lot of the children, telling stories that went along with the music. The school children had learned songs beforehand and sang with the orchestra accompanying. It was a great experience and made me want to attend more events there. I think the Tonhalle website is rather confusing, but this other website seems to list events for kids: http://www.zko.ch/abos/kiko-abo.

I haven't been to any performances in English in Switzerland. I know some of the international schools occasionally have performances that are open to the public, but they are not well-publicized. I've only heard about them through friends that have kids in the schools. The English Theatre Group of Zug recently put on Snow White in English and I heard great things about it.

Do you have any suggestions on where to see children's theater and music in and around Zurich, particularly English-speaking? I'd love to expand our options. I was introduced to this site http://www.lolabrause.ch/ (German only) that lists upcoming child-friendly performances all around Switzerland. I've started checking it regularly to see if anything catches my eye.
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