Students at C. R. Anderson Middle School got a chance to learn about opera Thursday from someone who knows his stuff — a Helena native who’s also a performer in the Metropolitan Opera in New York.
Taylor Walsh, son of John Walsh, the lieutenant governor-elect, recently performed as a sword fighter in “Otello” at the New York Metropolitan Opera.
As part of a nationwide program called “The Met: HD Live in Schools,” many area students recently had the chance to see “Otello” at Cinemark 8.
Walsh, 23, who happened to be in town this week visiting family during the elections, found out about the program and visited C. R. Anderson to talk about the relevance of opera and his experiences as a performer and to share insider tidbits with about 20 students in Kevin Cleary’s seventh-grade orchestra.
“The amazing thing about opera is you’re essentially putting the best of every art form all into one house and you’re putting on a huge spectacle,” Walsh said.
“The musicians that play in the pit, they didn’t just come off the street,” he told the students. “These are probably some of the best musicians in the world. You have some of the best ballet dancers, some of the best contemporary dancers just solely working with this one opera house. You have a fight crew that is trained by the best fight director in the world. It’s the culmination of every art form at its highest point.”
“I buy into this program (The Met: HD Live in Schools) so much because it does combine everything together so much,” Cleary said. “No matter what you’re interested in, if you like great art, great performers, in some way there’s something there.”
Walsh also talked about opera history and tradition. For example, he said that many opera singers are still paid during intermission because traditionally that’s when singers were paid to make sure they didn’t skip out on their own shows.
Performers at the Met all have people who dress them before shows, he also told the students.
“The costumes are so elaborate and expensive that they don’t trust us to dress ourselves in them,” Walsh said.
He also told students that the Met has “the best wig department in the world. They use real hair and they make them by hand.”
Opera is “cool” because of how much is involved with putting on a production, said Allie Martian, who plays violin in the seventh-grade orchestra.
“I thought it was cool that he came, that he took out of his time to come here,” Martian said, after listening to Walsh talk about his experiences in opera.
Walsh, said he “grew up here at Grandstreet” Theatre, attended Walnut Hill School for the Arts outside of Boston and graduated from Circle in the Square Theater School in New York City, where he now lives.
Life as an aspiring actor and performer in New York takes commitment, Walsh told the students.
“I have five jobs. I teach at three schools. I work at the Met and I work in a restaurant. And that’s the life of an artist in New York — until you make it.”
Walsh said he will likely perform as a guard in the Met’s upcoming production of “Aida,” an opera set in ancient Egypt. As part of “The Met: HD Live in Schools,” the opera will also be streamed at Cinemark 8, located at 750 Great Northern Blvd., on Dec. 15.