Rock ’n’ roll fans may still outnumber opera fans in America, but the Lake George Opera is doing all it can to change that.
“We’re trying to create a whole new generation of opera fans,” said Elizabeth Giblin, director of development and marketing for the Lake George Opera, which will perform “Pinocchio” on Saturday night at 7 at the Schenectady Civic Playhouse. “If you can get them when they’re young, they’ll be opera fans for the rest of their life.”
“Pinocchio” is a children’s opera written by John Davies in 1999, and like “The Adventures of Pinocchio,” a 2007 opera written by Jonathan Dove, it is adapted from the 1883 novel by Carlo Collodi. The story of a wooden puppet brought to life by a blue fairy, the character was made famous by Disney’s 1940 animated feature film, “Pinocchio.” It was Disney’s second animated film, coming three years after the enormously successful “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.”
Carved from a piece of pine by an Italian woodcarver named Geppetto, Pinocchio is told that if he is “brave, truthful and unselfish,” he will magically turn into a real boy.
“This story teaches us some wonderful golden rules, like telling the truth and to always be honest,” said Giblin. “It’s about 45 minutes and it’s a wonderful children’s opera. It’s a great way to introduce young children to the opera.”
WHERE: Schenectady Civic Playhouse, 12 S. Church St., Schenectady
WHEN: 7 p.m. Saturday
HOW MUCH: $5
MORE INFO: 382-2081, 584-6018 or www.civicplayers.org
Cost of the evening’s performance is $5, and serves as a benefit for the Schenectady Civic Players.
“This is a wonderful introduction to the opera for children, with professional singers using real opera music,” said Richard Michael Roe, who has directed a number of plays at the Civic Playhouse and has had the Lake George Opera perform in front of his class at the Yates Magnet School in Schenectady.
“The Schenectady Civic Players are looking for many different programs to reach out to families in the community. It’s tough with our schedule of plays, but these are the kinds of things, one-night performances, that we want to offer to different audiences, and then they might come back and watch one of our plays, something we produce ourselves.”
According to Roe, who recently directed the “Triangle Factory Fire Project” at the Playhouse, the Lake George Opera performance has been a huge hit with his classes at Yates School.
“They have been a great educational tool for us,” he said. “They provide some program material ahead of time, so our elementary school kids can grasp what they’re about to see ahead of time. A lot of people think the opera is so grandiose it’s only for the cultural elite, but we have children who love it. They’re sitting there yelling bravo and really appreciating it. The kids understand the story, they love the music and it makes for a great day.”
The Lake George Opera will begin its 47th season this summer, but the group is far from idle during its off-season.
“We perform for schools all over the Capital District, from south of Albany to as far north as Minerva from late February through the end of March,” said Giblin. “The demands have been quite high. So it keeps us pretty busy, but that’s how we create more fans.”
Giblin and the staff at Lake George Opera auditioned more than 600 performers last summer, selecting eight individuals to perform its February through April school program. Along with its school schedule, the troupe has performed at the New York State Museum, the Charles Wood Theater in Glens Falls and the Saratoga County Arts Council.
The Lake George Opera was formed in Lake George by Fred Patrick and his wife, Jeanette Scovotti. Its first performance was “Die Fledermaus” on July 5, 1962 at the Diamond Point Theater, and it has since performed 90 fully staged operas by 52 composers. The venue changed to sites in Glens Falls and Queensbury before relocating in 1998 to Saratoga Springs and the Spa Little Theater.
Its summer season will open July 5 with one of four performances of “The Pirates of Penzance.” Also on the schedule are “La Traviata,” to open July 5, while the conclusion of the summer season will offer performances of “Gianni Schicchi” and “Buosco’s Ghost,” July 10 to 12.
For more information on the “Pinocchio” performance, contact the Lake George Opera at 584-6018 or the Schenectady Civic Players at 382-2081. Tickets can also be purchased on line at www.civicplayers.org. A milk and cookies reception will follow the performance.
Schenectady Civic Players president Tom Heckert said this is the first time in his recollection that the Civic Playhouse has hosted an outside performance.
“I believe this is the first time we’ve done this, and if everything goes well, we’ll be looking for other opportunities to bring in other one-night performances,” he said.
“The biggest issue for us is scheduling something around our main productions, but this one happened to fit nicely into our schedule. We think it’s a great idea to offer opera to our audiences, it truly is a family event, and we’re very excited about hosting them.”