The school is heading into its second opera season with performances of ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ and ‘Lucinda y Las Flores de La Nochebuena.’
Putting on a production during a pandemic means things will look a little different this year for Windermere Preparatory School’s fine-arts department.
But, as the saying goes, the show must go on.
The Lakers are celebrating their second opera theater season by hosting two one-act opera performances on both Sept. 23 and 24.
The first act, Seymour Barab’s “Little Red Riding Hood,” tells the traditional story of the girl and her encounter with a hungry wolf. The second act is Evan Mack and Joshua McGuire’s 2016 opera, “Lucinda y Las Flores de La Nochebuena,” which translates to “Lucinda and the Christmas Eve Flower.” Set at Christmastime, it tells the story of a young girl who is faced with a decision of following the path of what is right versus what is easy.
Emily Tousek, high-school director of choirs and International Baccalaureate music at the school, said she chose these operas because they are designed for young audiences and families.
“(Opera) really exposes (students) to something different that they wouldn’t necessarily get anywhere else,” Tousek said. “Other than Opera Orlando, there’s not really an outlet for students to do opera at the high school and even younger levels. It really gives our students opportunities they other wise might not have access to, and it helps overall in performance education.”
After two months of preparation, six actors are taking the stage to bring both stories to life. The path to production hasn’t been an easy one this year, but the students couldn’t be happier to be back on stage.
Each actor did a lot of work on his or her own to learn their roles prior to meeting for in-person rehearsals, which only began a month ago. To be able to rehearse and perform safely, everyone is required to wear a mask and maintain distance from one another. For the actors, that also means singing through masks.
“When you’re singing, the air has to be able to flow well, and it’s kind of hard with the masks,” said Maria Gullesserian, a senior who plays Lucinda in “Lucinda y Las Flores de La Nochebuena.” “We have to show our emotions with our eyes and bodies instead of our full faces.”
Throughout the production, none of the actors touch. In fact, Tousek said, they hardly touch each other’s props. Used props are wiped down and disinfected. If they cannot be wiped down, they must sit untouched for 48 hours. Nearly every prop has a double for that reason.
“We’ve got hand sanitizer, we’ve got wipes, we’ve got spray, we have set-up places,” Tousek said. “We’re not blocking them super close to each other and are making sure they’re staying somewhat distanced. … Obviously we are masked, which has provided challenges because some masks are easier to sing in than others — the thicker the mask, the harder to sing. That’s been a learning curve, especially for the kids.”
“No matter what struggles we face, theater and opera performing will always come through,” said sophomore Jayson Goldner, who also will star in “Lucinda y Las Flores de La Nochebuena.”
“Some schools aren’t even able to perform right now, and we’re lucky enough to be able to still,” Maria said.