Opera comes to the islands

  • May. 4, 2007 9:00 a.m.

Audiences were enthralled with the first-ever opera performances on the islands last week.
The Vancouver Opera’s special adaptation of Mozart’s Magic Flute played in schools across the islands and at an evening show in Skidegate.
Both the special performance for schools and the main production of the Magic Flute seen in Vancouver featured First Nations costumes and were set in the forests of the Pacific Northwest.
Evelyn von Almassy, who teaches at Sk’aadgaa Naay Elementary in Skidegate, said even the kindergarten students sat in rapt attention for the full 45 minutes of the show.
The students offered gifts of moonsnail shells from the beaches of Haida Gwaii to the performers.
Ms von Almassy said the community owes Sk’aadgaa Naay teacher Jenny White a huge debt for bringing the show here.
Ms White heard about the touring production and knew it had to come Haida Gwaii, so she went above and beyond the call of duty to ensure it came, even lending her truck to help move the set around the islands. The Haida Gwaii stop was not originally on the touring schedule, so the school district, the Queen Charlotte Islands Arts Council and the Royal Bank also sponsored the show.
The performers were thrilled to do one of their final shows in the longhouse-style setting at the Haida Heritage Centre April 24.
The young performers had been in the chorus in the main production, but during the school tour they took on starring roles. Two of the singers have First Nations heritage.
More than 100 people from all over the islands came to the show at the Haida Heritage Centre, the first staged production to be held at the new theatre.
Some islanders came all the way from Masset and North Beach just to take in the opera in the beautiful new setting. One of the audience members was a professional opera singer himself.
North Beach resident Michael Koening is a freelance tenor and said he has performed the role of Tamino in the Magic Flute more than 30 times. Originally from Germany, he performs around the world in places like Paris and Tokyo, but spends the rest of his time here with his family on Haida Gwaii.

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