Friday, May 9, will go down in the Detroit Opera House annals of stage performances as truly a day to remember. That is when the audience in the Rehearsal Hall will be entertained by the hard work, writing talents, creativity and energy of DPS students who will stage their first opera, Ringer Of The Moon. There will be one performance at 12:30 p.m. No tickets are required. Seating is limited.
The project began in October of last year, and fully exemplifies the meaning of the ‘Create Opera’ program established by Karen DiChiera, co-founder of the Michigan Opera Theatre. Ms. DiChiera partnered with one of Hanstein’s writers in residence, Dr. Suzanne Scarfone, Ed. Dir. of the InsideOut Literary Arts Project who wanted to take that opera program to one of her DPS schools. The enthusiasm of the Principal at the school and financial support from the Skillman Foundation sealed the deal and the rest is history destined for the spotlights at the Detroit Opera House.
The fact that no other group of children have ever written and staged their own opera in Metro Detroit was of no consequence. Work began immediately and every Friday since last October, Ms. DiChiera and Dr. Scarfone have gone to the school and really put their 50 student/performers through their paces.
They began with the backbone of the opera.the libretto.the storyline. The students called on what they’d learned about 12th and 13th century medieval times for ideas and inspiration. As a result, the plot is rapt with courtiers, knights, the peasantry.caught in the conflict of the world of Negative Imagination where poetry emerges as the champion when the inhabitants realize its power. Brainstorming sessions refined the setting and the development of several sub themes – harmony and peace in the community; the power of the individual to create a better world; belief in the imagination and the inner spirit; the need to work to achieve goals; respect for others, polite behavior; and chivalry.
In the students’ weekly poetry writing session, each had to name their character and write a poem as that character, based on the theme line.’The Struggles of a..” That became the foundation of the dialogue.
This opera project doubles as a unique arts experience and an opportunity to greatly broaden the students’ knowledge. History came to life as the students mastered the details about 29 occupations such as courtier, hayward, master mason, constable and the like that were part of medieval palace life – a list from which they made their character selections. They also learned a great deal about developing scenes, writing songs and dialogue, stage direction, the importance of posture, how to bow and curtsy, walking regally and gracefully, following direction, projecting the voice, elocution and becoming their character. Add to those accomplishments, the final touches, creating the dances and music, plus costumes provided by generous supporters, and these students have come very close to learning and producing on par with theatre students in college level classes.
Not bad for nine, ten and eleven year old youngsters at Hanstein Elementary. You can make donations at the school, 4300 Marseilles/ 313-417-9370, in support of the performance.