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Vol 38  No 13
April 27, 2006


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Opera RoadShow takes to the air

By Leslie Vryenhoek

A scene from the Opera RoadShow in 2002.

When School of Music students take opera on the road this spring, they’ll also take to the air, thanks to a generous donation from Air Labrador.

The Air Labrador Opera RoadShow Tour 2006 is a unique venture that sees a company of undergraduate music students perform throughout the province for primary and elementary school audiences. Dr. Carolyn Schiller, the director of opera in the School of Music, came up with the concept as a way for her students to experience professional touring, while introducing youngsters all over the province to the pageantry, drama and music of opera.

The touring company consists of seven students and alumnus Calvin Powell, who agreed to return from his Toronto life because a baritone was needed. These eight are responsible for all aspects of the tour, from performing to props.

This is the third year for the tour, but the first time the operatic entourage has been able to venture off-island. That means, in addition to the thousands of kilometres they’ll log on the road, performers and sets will need to fly in and out of Labrador communities. Air Labrador has committed to a gift of about $50,000.

“Our goal was, within three years, to be able to say that we’ve offered this everywhere in the province ­ and now we can say that,” Dr. Schiller said.

While not every school has been able to accommodate the opera, the RoadShow has performed for over 10,000 children, some in very remote areas.

“It amazes adults sometimes that 200 children would be interested in sitting and listening to opera, but the kids really get engaged,” Dr. Schiller said, noting that in years past, cards, e-mails and drawings have attested to how much the kids enjoyed the show.

“If you introduce something like this to a child at an early age, they can develop a lifelong appreciation. And who knows, it may tweak an interest in a child who has the talent to pursue it, but might never have been exposed to it.”

This year, the RoadShow will perform The Vinland Traveller, created by Gander-native Dean Burry. Memorial commissioned the original opera, based on the Vinland sagas, so that it could also offer young audiences some insight into the province’s history and heritage.

According to Jennifer O’Neill, development officer for the School of Music, Air Labrador’s gift is in addition to support from the provincial government, CBC and the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council.

The (ironically named) Air Labrador Opera RoadShow Tour takes off in early May with an invitation-only launch in Petro Canada Hall on May 6, followed by public performances in St. John’s in May

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