"Opera for babies" isn't just for babies.

In the spring of 2019, "Nooma" premiered at New York's Carnegie Hall, then was presented a month later as part of the Flint Hills Family Festival at St. Paul's Ordway Center. A co-commission of Minnesota Opera, Carnegie Hall and the San Francisco Opera, it grew out of a Carnegie Hall initiative called "The Lullaby Project" and was created by composers Saskia Lane and Emily Eagen.

"At first, you think of it as being for the baby," Lane said last week. "But the process of writing, it's a dyad. It's for the parent and for the child."

She and Eagen are working on their fourth "opera for babies."

"The operas, to me, especially 'Nooma,' have that feeling that all of parenting isn't just the nuts and bolts of making sure they're fed and clothed," Eagen added. "But that you can actually have a creative life for yourself and a creative encounter with your kid."

The local production of "Nooma" is being revived for this weekend's Flint Hills Family Festival. Presented in one of the Ordway's rehearsal halls, the Drake Room, it's designed for babies and toddlers of 24 months or younger, but it's an opportunity for some intergenerational bonding between children and caregivers — and between the babies, too.

Bergen Baker was the stage manager for the 2019 production and returns to direct this year's version, along with two of the three performers.

"The characters are based on this neo-paganistic concept of the triple goddess, the three aspects of femininity," she said last week. "But, in 'Nooma,' we believe that these characters represent childlike discovery. A search for belonging. So these three characters move through the seasons. It's a hero's journey, but more about discovery of themselves than the fear of the unknown that you often find in such stories."

Less than an hour in length, "Nooma" uses such soft props as scarves, sheets, cotton snowballs and a parachute that's raised and lowered by the adults in the audience in time with deep, slow breaths.

"The word, 'Nooma,' relates to the word, pneumatic, or breath," Eagen said. "We really thought about how much it helps to breathe as a parent. We need to slow down, settle down, be in a childlike space with a childlike energy. If you're frustrated because they won't sleep or you have this sense of tension about your to-do list, the baby operas have that feeling of: Let's just be in this beautiful thing together."

When Baker was stage manager for the production in 2019, her twins were six months old.

"And I was exhausted," she said. "I wasn't sleeping. It was around-the-clock feeding. It was very difficult, some days, to come up out of the fog of fatigue, postpartum anxiety and all of the things I was dealing with personally."

Five years later, she says she now feels a stronger connection with the opera's joy and beauty.

"We all have a lot of healing we've been doing post-pandemic in our lives," Baker said. "This idea of coming together as a community and seeing beauty and discovery through this unfiltered, unadulterated child's perspective is incredibly inspiring and healing."

"When we went into lockdown in 2020, we had just come out of 'Nooma,'" Lane said. "We just sang under a parachute, singing, 'Breathe in, breathe out.' I felt really heartbroken, thinking 'This is never going to happen again.' And now it is happening. We are breathing and singing together again. We have to find these ways of creating collectively again. If it's only one show, I'll take it."

Minnesota Opera's 'Nooma'

When: 10:15 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. Fri., 9:15 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. Sat.

Where: Drake Room, Ordway Center, 345 Washington St., St. Paul

Tickets: $5, available at 651-224-4222 or ordway.org

Rob Hubbard is a Twin Cities classical music writer. Reach him at wordhub@yahoo.com.