Opera returns to Windermere
Windermere Preparatory School is celebrating its third opera season by collaborating with local talent and spotlighting the work of Gilbert and Sullivan.
“We have done three fully staged productions over the last two years, and I really wanted to mix things up a little bit,” said Emily Tousek, director of choirs and high school piano. “So I, very early on, reached out to Opera Orlando.”
This year’s performance, titled “An Evening of Opera,” will mark Windermere Prep’s second partnership with Opera Orlando. The first took place during the school’s 2019 season and featured guest artists and students performing a series of operatic arias, duets and ensembles.
“The kids really enjoyed it, they got a lot out of it, and I got a lot out of it,” Tousek said.
Furthermore, sharing the spotlight not only enriches the student experience, it gives exposure to the local arts community.
“We have a great local resource in Opera Orlando and, we’d love for people to know what they’re doing,” she said.
“An Evening of Opera” will feature Opera Orlando artists John Teixeira, Samantha Barnes Daniel and Sarah Purser performing alongside five high school soloists and the 14-voice Little Laker Voices choir. But the collaboration is only part of what audiences have to look forward to; the cast also will perform three operettas featuring songs from Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Mikado,” “H.M.S. Pinafore” and “Pirates of Penzance.”
“They’re some of the early predecessors of what we know as today’s modern musical theatre and just really well loved around the world,” Tousek of said Gilbert and Sullivan.
Each operetta will be presented in a concert style that will include some choreography and few props while focusing more on the artists’ vocals and stage presence. The style and substance may be new to the program, but the COVID-19 concerns of the previous school year remain an issue. Masks and social distancing are a necessary part of the performance.
“It is really hard, you have to be more physically emotive with your body and the part of your face that can be seen,” Tousek said of performing behind masks. “It’s a good exercise in learning to project not only emotion or character but (also) to project their voices.”
“It’s something that, unfortunately, we’ve gotten a little more used to because of the situation we’ve been in for over a year,” said Jayson Goldner, one of the student performers. “But even with that it’s still extremely difficult.”
According to Goldner, a greater need to project means there is a greater emphasis on breath control. But he knowledges that successfully accommodating the masks will improve the ability to perform without them.
“With masks off, that breath control stays so we can hold (the note) longer and have better support,” he said.
Another COVID-19 precaution that has become an unexpected benefit is live-streaming.
“We can bring the performance to families who can’t attend shows,” Windermere Preparatory School Marketing Manager Summer Simmons said. “The show can be seen anywhere in the world.”
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