For Kids: Frida Kahlo and the Bravest Girl in the World

BY: 
Catherine A. Jones
 | March 29, 2024

The Tulsa Opera is introducing young audiences to a Mexican icon with its latest production, “Frida Kahlo and the Bravest Girl in the World.” It’s part of its 2024 “Raise Your Voice Tour,” with performances for over 7,000 elementary school students.

This bilingual 45-minute opera tells a tale inspired by real events in the life of the iconic Mexican painter, Frida Kahlo.

“This magical children’s opera features storytelling designed for children in kindergarten through third grade, exciting singing in English and Spanish, beautiful costumes and audience participation,” TulsaLibrary.org writes. 

The Tulsa debut also marks the 5th anniversary of the one-act children’s opera, created by Kahlo opera fans in 2019.

Frida Kahlo and the Bravest Girl in the World

The story revolves around Mariana, a spirited young girl living in the heart of Mexico City.

It goes like this: encouraged by her family, Mariana embarks on a courageous journey to visit the renowned artist Frida Kahlo. Her mission? To have her portrait painted by the enigmatic Frida herself. But Mariana is terrified —rumors abound that Frida keeps skeletons above her bed and that she might even be a witch.

As Kahlo begins to paint Mariana’s portrait, the girl’s fears quickly dissipate. A friendship blossoms between the two, and Mariana discovers the magic that lies within Kahlo’s art. Along the way, she also meets Diego Rivera, Kahlo’s husband, and learns of the harrowing accident that nearly took Frida’s life.

Through the magic of opera, their story unfolds, inviting the audience to join in the fun.

“It tells the real-life story of Mariana Morillo Safa, a young girl living in Mexico City, and her friendship with the famed painter, Frida Kahlo,” Patch.com writes. “Mariana has her portrait painted by Ms. Kahlo and learns two important lessons in the process: that art can happen anywhere and how important it is to be brave even when you feel scared.”

5-Year Anniversary

“Frida Kahlo and the Bravest Girl in the World” was world-premiered by Fort Worth Opera (FWO) on November 16, 2019 at the historic Rose Marine Theater in Fort Worth, Texas.

“I am from Mexico, so the opportunity to tell a story of one of our iconic artists is something I wanted to take advantage of,” FWO Stage Director Octovio Cardenas tells Nuestro Stories. “It is a wonderful show for the family and especially for little kids who are experiencing opera for the first time.”

Since its debut in Fort Worth, the opera has been presented throughout the United States, where it was loved by parents and children alike, according to theater critics.

“Parents in the audience frequently dabbed their eyes, while their children — many donning home-made flower crowns in Kahlo’s signature style — appeared captivated with the performance,” RealChangeNews, of Seattle, Washington, explains.

The opera is presented in a Spanglish version by Arlene Martínez-Vásquez, adding a delightful linguistic twist. 

Based on a Book

The opera, composed by FWO Artistic Director Joe Illick, with a libretto by Mark Campbell, is based on Laurence Anholt’s picture book “Frida Kahlo and the Bravest Girl in the World.” 

“Anholt published his book in 2016 as part of his larger series on ‘famous artists and the children who knew them,’” RealChangeNews.org explains.

“The idea for ‘Frida Kahlo and the Bravest Girl in the World’ came from our General Director Tuomas Hiltunen,” Illick told OperaWire. “He suggested the book as a basis for a family opera, and when Mark and I saw that the story was about empowering young women and the universal reach of art, we were thrilled to create the piece.”

Other Operas Inspired by Frida

Frida’s life has been told through opera before.

Robert Xavier Rodriguez’s musical theater-tinged opera “Frida” (1991) delves into her tumultuous relationship with Diego Rivera.

Most recently, Gabriela Lena Frank and Nilo Cruz’s opera “El Último Sueño de Frida y Diego” imagines Kahlo’s journey beyond death. In it, she escorts Rivera to the underworld on the Day of the Dead.

“Frida Kahlo and the Bravest Girl in the World” is different in that it’s tailor made for the youngest audience members. And it promotes courage, friendship, and the magic of creativity. Through Mariana’s eyes, it hopes that Kahlo’s indomitable spirit will inspire everyone, kids of all ages.

Featured photo by Octavio Cardenas.

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Photograph of Frida Kahlo in 1932.
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