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Opera on Wheels performances introduce students to art form

Production of ‘The Mikado’ adapted for children audiences

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    Jordan Harris, left, Abigail Krawson, and Nicholas Ward are Toledo Opera interns getting a chance to perform in this year’s production ‘The Mikado.’ They are traveling throughout the region in a rental van.

    THE BLADE/AMY E. VOIGT
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    Laura Reaper performs as character Katisha in ‘The Mikado’ during the Opera on Wheels program at the Franciscan Academy.

    THE BLADE/AMY E. VOIGT
    Buy This Image

5n2opera-2

Jordan Harris, left, Abigail Krawson, and Nicholas Ward are Toledo Opera interns getting a chance to perform in this year’s production ‘The Mikado.’ They are traveling throughout the region in a rental van.

THE BLADE/AMY E. VOIGT
Enlarge | Buy This Image

Opera on Wheels is rolling along, with plans for 69 performances, mostly at schools, scheduled this season.

“In May, we are fully booked at schools,” said Loviah Aldinger, associate director of the Toledo Opera, which produces the traveling show designed to introduce young people to opera while giving budding opera singers a chance to perform.

Last week’s stops included the Sylvania Franciscan Academy and Greenwood Elementary School in the Washington Local district.

This year’s production is adapted from Gilbert and Sullivan’s famous comic opera, The Mikado.

The 2.5-hour production has been abbreviated to 40 minutes, with lyrics and dialogue rewritten in contemporary vernacular, although the music remains the same.

The adaptation was done by Jennifer Cresswell, the artistic director of Opera on Wheels.

The five performers, all Toledo Opera interns, are soprano Abigail Krawson, mezzo-soprano Laura Reaper, tenor Jordan Harris, baritone Nicholas Ward, and pianist Spencer Miller. They are traveling a lot of miles as they tour the region with their costumes and sets packed into a rental van, going as far north as Port Huron, Mich.

To complement the 2014 tour, the Toledo Opera has produced a study guide of The Mikado that explains the story and characters and how librettist W.S. Gilbert and composer Arthur Sullivan, both English, were among the most successful and creative musical teams of the 19th century. It describes The Mikado as “a fanciful satire on Victorian British customs, not an attempt to create a work based on real Japanese life or customs.”

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Laura Reaper performs as character Katisha in ‘The Mikado’ during the Opera on Wheels program at the Franciscan Academy.

THE BLADE/AMY E. VOIGT
Enlarge | Buy This Image

At the Franciscan Academy, a gym full of youngsters had no trouble finding humor in the performance. They laughed at Mr. Ward’s song about head-chopping, and applauded at the happy ending, when all the characters find romance.

The cast then held a brief question and answer session, during which Mr. Harris explained that part of the story’s fun was that all the characters came close to getting their heads chopped off, “but it never does happen.”

Ms. Reaper explained that a lot of work went into preparing for the performances, with songs and dialogue committed to memory and “figuring out the blocking at rehearsals.”

Third-grade teacher Marcia Swint said the performance “gives the kids who have never had any experience with opera a chance to see one.”

One of her students, Zak Kovacs, said he thought the acting was “very good. I could understand. I liked the costumes too.”

His classmate, Miracle Christian, said she also was entertained. “It was very funny and creative the way they acted it out.”

Contact Carl Ryan at: carlryan@theblade.com or 419-724-6095.

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