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Close to 900 schoolchildren went to the opera Wednesday.

They went with great expectations -- and good manners -- to the Greater Buffalo Opera's production of "Help, Help, the Globolinks!" by Gian-Carlo Menotti.

For many, it was their first opera.

"I'm not scared -- there's no such thing," Chris Fichter, 7, said of the Globolinks.

"They look like gook," observed Lisa Kish, 7, a second-grader with Chris at the Grant Street Elementary School in North Tonawanda.

The Globolinks also looked like white corkscrews as they cavorted on the stage of Buffalo State College's Rockwell Hall Auditorium with the teachers and students of a fictional school who sang the opera in English. Conductor Charles Peltz asked for questions afterward.

"Why are that man's eyes so strange?" wondered Tommy Seay, 7, a second-grader at School 59, the city's Science Magnet.

"How come the person in the pink shirt is holding a tissue?" asked his classmate, Marybeth Manfredi, 7.

Peltz ran up and down the aisles to answer the questions: "Why isn't there a happy ending? Are the Globolinks real? Where are they now?"

All but one Globolink had "gone out for hamburgers" by the time the opera was over.

Most of the pupils had been prepared for the opera by "teaching artists" involved in the Arts in Education Institute's programs to introduce children to the arts.

Among the teaching artists was Karen Wieland, who has a lead role as the violin-playing Emily in the Globolinks opera.

"This is a pilot project -- our first major outreach endeavor," said Gary Burgess, artistic director of the Greater Buffalo Opera, now in its fourth season.

"We don't think anything like this has been done here professionally before," said Margo Davis, production manager and education director for the opera company.

"We are providing the opera. The Institute has done the hands-on creative dramatics and music activities in the classrooms to get the children ready for it. The people doing the teaching are also performing and opera artists."

Other schools with pupils attending the opera included Armor and Colden Elementary Schools, Mill Middle School in Amherst, St. Andrew's Country Day School in the Town of Tonawanda, Barker Elementary School in Niagara County, and the Bennett Park Montessori School and the Blind Association of Western New York, both of Buffalo.

The Greater Buffalo Opera and the institute also are presenting Menotti's opera, "Amahl and the Night Visitors," which pupils will see today at Rockwell Hall.

The public is invited to both operas -- as a double bill -- at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and at 2:30 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are available at the Rockwell Hall Box Office.

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