What a way to kick off their summer holidays: a group of Memorial University students are getting ready to explore this province’s four corners over the next three weeks.
The students are on a road trip that takes them throughout Labrador, western Newfoundland, as well as areas along the Avalon and Burin peninsulas.
It’s all part of Memorial’s Opera Roadshow, a unique program that brings opera to thousands of school-aged children each year in performances by university students. The program is now in its sixth year.
The group is in Labrador and on the west coast this week.
Dr. Caroline Schiller, associate professor of voice and opera at Memorial and director of the program, recently received the largest touring grant awarded by the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council’s new school touring program.
Thanks to $17,000 in funding, seven undergraduate and graduate music students are touring this province as well as Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, while young audiences will get “an up-close and personal performing experience.”
Dr. Schiller said the new grant allows her troupe to spread out and reach schools in a variety of regions.
“It is so encouraging to have this level of support for a project of this kind,” she said. “Our goal has always been to bring opera to schools in every part of the province, reaching as many students as we possibly can. But travel to the more remote areas of the province make touring with a group so costly as to be almost prohibitive. Grants of this kind clearly show the province’s active commitment to arts in education and help provide us with the means necessary to perform for children from Goose Bay to Fortune.”
This year’s production is an adaptation of Maurice Ravel’s L’enfant et les sortilèges, a bilingual production that will perform in French first language, immersion and core French elementary programs.
The opera tells the imaginative journey of a naughty young boy who is sent to his room for misbehaving only to have the inanimate occupants come to life to teach him a lesson of compassion.
Dr. Schiller said thanks to the new funding, her troupe will also lead workshops on the process of creating an opera production and singing for opera.
“It is always a great opportunity to be able to spend time with students in the schools we visit,” she noted. “The workshops will vary depending on the needs of the school and ages of the children. Many schools are interested in having us work with their choir; others would like us to talk to students about singing in general and the different ways in which we can use our voices. Whatever the topic, they provide a wonderful forum in which to exchange ideas and a valuable learning experience for both the children and young professionals involved.”
Memorial’s Opera Road Show’s schedule is:
May 5 Happy Valley-Goose Bay
May 6-7 Labrador West
May 8 West Coast
May 12 Clarenville
May 13 Topsail
May 14 Clarke’s Beach/Harbour Grace
May 15 Kelligrews
May 16 Torbay and St. John’s
May 18 St. John’s
May 20 Holyrood/Whitbourne
May 21 Fortune
May 22 Marystown
May 23 St. Lawrence
The troupe will tour the Maritime Provinces in late May and early June.