SOMERVILLE, NJ - The buses left Van Derveer School early Friday morning, with 70 fifth-grade students, teachers and chaperones taking the high road on a highly-anticipated field trip.

Destination: A performance of “Hansel & Gretel” by the Metropolitan Opera Company at Lincoln Center in New York City.

They had been preparing weeks ahead of time in class for their encounter with the sophisticated world of opera, learning the history of the world-renowned opera company, the accepted etiquette, behavior before and during the performance, when to applaud, the story of “Hansel and Gretel,” the proper attire and exposure to other classical genres of music.

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The annual trip has a long history, according to music teacher Patricia Helwig, who attended Van Derveer School and made the trip to the Met 45 years ago when she was a student. She has heard from a fellow graduate who recollects making the trip to New York in 1961.

She also made the trip as a chaperone, before she became the music teacher at Van Derveer.

“I was once them,” she said, speaking of her students. “I get extremely emotional.”

Friday’s performance by the Metropolitan Opera Company was their final dress rehearsal  before performances of the classical holiday production begin Dec. 18, running through Jan. 6, 2018.