Bedford students get an introduction to opera
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Dec 01, 2013  |  Vote 0    0

Bedford students get an introduction to opera

Stratford Gazette

Jeff Heuchert

For most students at Bedford Public School, Friday morning’s performance of The Brothers Grimm by the Canadian Opera Company was their first introduction to the kind of power and grandeur typically reserved for a stage rather than gymnasium floor.

With that in mind, the performers, part of the company’s Ensemble Studio, took time afterwards to answer students’ questions.

Topics ranged from the actors’ many costumes - “It’s like Halloween every day,” Danielle MacMillan, who played several roles including Dortchen Wild in the production, said — how they’re able to consistently belt out those big notes — MacMillan explained the performers, much like a marathon runner, train to strengthen their muscles (in this case, those that control their vocal chords) — and if they ever make mistakes — she noted they do happen from time to time, but they’re trained to keep going and improvise when necessary.

“The show must go on,” she said.

Perhaps the best advice came from Andrew Haji, who played Wilhelm Grimm, when asked how the actors started in opera. He said most performers started singing at a young age before further their studies in university.

"It's a life-long thing," he said.  "But a good place to start is at school, singing in choirs."

The children’s performance, an imaginative tale of how the two scholarly brothers in the 1800s collected some of the world’s best-loved fairy tales, including Rapunzel, Rumpelstiltskin, and Little Red Riding Hood, was commissioned by the company in 1999, and was re-introduced by the company last year to mark the 200th anniversary of the Brothers Grimm stories. It is believed to be the most performed Canadian opera of all time.

“We love bringing the opera to kids,” music director Timothy Cheung noted. “And they love it too."

Touring schools across the province not only raises awareness about the Canadian Opera Company, but helps expose a younger audience to something they have likely never witnessed before, Cheung added, noting it also gives kids who enjoy signing an idea of where they can go if they continue to pursue the performing arts.

"It's nice for them to see what options are out there," he said.



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