A&E » Arts

The magic of opera



What: The Magic Flute

Who: The Vancouver Opera Touring Ensemble

Where: MY Place Theatre

When: Nov. 18, 2 p.m.

Indulgence, opulence, and arias: three features of the upcoming Magic Flute performance presented by Alta Lake School.

The people behind the Alta Lake School wanted to bring the Vancouver Opera Touring Ensemble to the community as part of the Waldorf approach to learning, a theory that utilizes extensive music in teaching youth.

"We wanted to open the show up to the community, so instead of staging the show at the school we decided to rent MY Place and make it a fund-raiser," says Laurie Cooper, a member of the Alta Lake School board. "We wanted this particular opera as it lends itself well to young ears with its fantasy story. We heard there’s a possibility of dragons on the set design, too, " she laughs.

Proceeds from the performance will fund art supplies for the Alta Lake School, whose enrolment includes 22 children from kindergarten through Grade 4. The school currently operates out of a large home in Whistler.

Opera is a play that has most of its story set to music. Magic Flute tells the fable of a prince and princess in search of each other’s love, who find themselves facing the dark and light powers of this challenge. Birdcatcher Papgeno (Jonathan Liebech) joins the lovers on their quest. Prince Tamino and brutal palace guard Monostatos (both played by tenor Neil Wright) try to locate Princess Pamina (soprano Julia Bonnett), who is stalled by her vengeful mother, the Queen of the Night (coloratura soprano Alexandra Liebich-Tait).

Because this is a "condensed" production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute, the four also play the additional roles of the three ladies-in-waiting to the Queen, and three heavenly spirits that rescue Pamina from self-destruction.

Bonnett trained at the University of Victoria and later attended the University of Western Washington to do her Master’s degree. She was also a finalist in the Metropolitan Opera auditions after winning the regional competition.

Liebech-Tait comes from a family of singers, although she studied commerce and history before training as a singer herself. At UBC she performed Mozart’s La Finta Giardiniera with Jonathan Liebech, her colleague, whom she later wed after the UBC production was completed.

Liebech hails from Salmon Arm, B.C., and was playing the tuba before he began singing opera. He attended the international symphonic conductors’ workshop and production of The Magic Flute staged in the Czech Republic.

Tenor Neil Wright appeared in a variety of opera prductions while attending UBC, including the role of Rodolfo in La Boheme, Fenton in The Merry Wives of Windsor, and Judge Danforth in The Crucible.

Anita Wilson is Accompanist and Music Director for the production, bringing with her experience gained at workshops at the Banff Centre in Alberta, and Aldeburg in the UK.

Established in 1972 as part of the Opera in Schools program by the Vancouver Opera Guild, the ensemble present scenes from operas to elementary school audiences. Under the banner Opera Encore!, they perform selections from the Magic Flute during the first hour, and songs from a variety of opera classics during the second hour.

For more information on the Whistler performance call Vicky Bunbury at the Alta Lake School at 604-932-4127. Tickets are $16 for adults, $9.75 for children, available through Alta Lake School, MY place box office (604) 935-8418, and Ticketmaster.