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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Hansel and Gretel in the Schools

Sorry it's been awhile since my last post. We've been busy... The "we" in that is not meant to be a royal we, it's meant to mean a team of six singers, a coordinator, and myself who've been going into various elementary schools - both French and English - in the Montreal area with a presentation about Humperdinck's Hänsel und Gretel.

It's because I had an idea about this fall's Opera McGill production of said opera. The idea: project illustrations, by kids, for the sets of the opera. Allow the kids to imagine the story of H & G, and with little guidance, let them create forests, angels, gingerbread children, maison de bonbons, etc. with crayons and markers. Then, the illustrations picked would become part of the actual set design, be projected onto the back screen during the show, and the illustrators (and their families) would be invited to a special presentation in November - complete with a cupcake reception hosted by THE WITCH!

We took a team of Hansels and Gretels, had them sing the first act "let's not work, let's dance instead" duet and also the 2nd act prayer. We also asked the kids lots of questions: What's an opera? What do we need to make an opera? What language were they singing in? What was going on while they sang? etc., etc.

Interesting to see how much the students knew about opera, their ideas and preconceived stereotypes (it's LOUD), their reactions to the live performances, and of course to see their illustrations! Some were really, truly amazing!

I'm looking forward to staging the show - starting this Monday - and getting into the mind of a child again. It's a much better place to be!

Other goings on in the Opera McGill world: performances at the Homecoming "Spotlight on Schulich" where we presented quatre extraits from La Boheme. People were stunned by the level of the casts... Two weeks ago we also performed the first annual "Death By Aria" patterned after the DMMO evening of the same name. Each of the singers cast in Opera McGill productions stood up and sang an aria. I played. Brilliantly, I might add, for the sheer number of arias on the program: 30! I felt more connected to Robert Larsen that afternoon than ever before. It's a fun thing to do, and it allowed the students to experience performing an aria in front of a -- standing room only -- audience without being judged by an audition panel or a faculty grading an exam or critics listening with their 20th century ears. This sort of experience is rare and schools should provide more of these types of performance experiences! Plans are underway for another one in the 2nd semester. Plus the party afterwards at our house, hosted by my wife and kids, was a ton of fun.

I've tried to finish watching the second season of ROME, but am only 2/3rds of the way through. I really, really want to do a Poppea and really, really go for it ala ROME. It's the perfect opera for digging into Roman sex scenes, religious rites, bloody murders, stoic suicides, intrigue everywhere, and reclining meals (want to do that some day -- the meal part, not some of the others).

Yes, I wrote "some" on purpose.

Must run, have to write a thousand letters of recommendation that no one will read and are a total waste of time. When in the world will this NONSENSE END?!?!?!

Keep singing loud, fast and high!