Opera Festival performs for students

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 17, 2003

The petite princess wants to head up the royal army. The hefty prince wants to dance with the royal ballet. The fairy godmother does magic tricks. And the villain &045; well, you haven’t seen a villain like this one in a very long time.

The governess is peaches-and-cream pretty, narrating &uot;Fair Means or Foul&uot; with sweet, musical tones whether speaking or singing in this delightful opera for children sponsored throughout May by the Natchez Opera Festival.

Elementary school children filled the Braden School auditorium last week, laughing and applauding in appreciation of the musical drama directed by Donna Schaffer.

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For Schaffer, the 2003 season in Natchez is her first. For the educational outreach program, however, the history reaches back to the first year, when selections were taken from the main performances into area schools.

The outreach program will visit schools in surrounding counties and parishes, with an expected 15,000 children having the chance to see the one-hour opera, Schaffer said.

&uot;When you hear that first eruption of laughter, it’s so rewarding,&uot; she said. &uot;Hopefully, we are opening them up to something new with this music.&uot;

Children in the audience on Thursday knew immediately the story line would be different, as the princess, played by Kristine Kalina, began to tell of her love for judo and karate.

&uot;How thrilling it would be to kick someone in the knee if you did it scientifically,&uot; she trills.

Her brother, the prince, is approaching his 21st birthday, putting in jeopardy the political power of the royal siblings’ guardian, the penultimate plenipotentiary, played uproariously by Martin Fisher.

Declaring the prince not fit to rule, the plenipotentiary sings, &uot;I am the one with cunning and guile; I am the one with royal style. I’m the man for the job. The prince has a heart as big as a whale; he’d never send anyone off to jail.&uot;

Coming up with plans to take over the kingdom from the prince, the plenipotentiary tricks the young royals’ governess into promising not to tell of his guile.

The costumes &045; purple for the villain, hot pink for the governess, along with a nifty two-pronged headdress, and the gauzy white fluff for the fairy godmother &045; caught the eyes of their audience, eliciting one of the interesting questions the children asked in a brief session following the end of the musical.

In fact, the children most of all wanted to know how the fairy godmother performed her magic tricks, where the company found the swords used in the play and how long it took to put the play together.

The message of the play is clear throughout, but the prince, finally happy to accept the crown when his sister assures him that as king he will own the royal ballet and can dance with them anytime he pleases, says to the audience: &uot;When I am king, everyone’s going to do his thing.&uot;

David Hamilton, taking the role of the prince, has performed in children’s theater in the past. &uot;It’s very satisfying,&uot; he said.

Kalina, the princess, said she likes knowing the children are getting exposure to opera. &uot;It’s a great opportunity for them to learn about opera.&uot;

Kelly Gebhardt played the part of governess, and Lynn Blalock was the fairy godmother.