Young opera singers set to ‘Tinker’

It’s almost summer. Officially. But stop – I’m not ready for summer yet. Really busy and gee, what can I say to all of you who shared that nasty stomach flu with me. My schedule does not allow for this nonsense. So, I did miss some shows, and sorry I did. But moving forward, I am determined to be at the gala opening of The Tinker of Tivoli, presented by our own Young Peoples Opera Society.

Now approaching its 10th year as a society, this fledgling opera group is beginning to show some strength and growth, thanks to some very dedicated work by a few people who really believed – and continue to believe – that young people would not only enjoy opera but could also participate

in this very artsy (to some) style of theatrical endeavors.

Well, Patricia Dahlquist had a dream that she could not only induce young people into singing in an operatic production, but that many more young people and their parents would enjoy the performances. This became the mission of the Young Peoples’ Opera Society of BC (YPOSBC): to provide affordable opportunities for youth to learn about, participate in and sing opera at a community level, so as to foster appreciation of opera and to create a foundation for future opera performers and performances. Further, the society is mandated to develop a sustainable music program that is accessible and beneficial to all sectors of the population.

Dahlquist, one of Surrey’s Civic Treasures, had an idea for a children’s opera. She wrote the book and persuaded composer, conductor and music teacher George Austin to write the score. Golly – it sounds so quick

and easy when you write it down. It wasn’t easy! But it was done, and The King Who Wouldn’t Sing came to life at Surrey Arts Centre. Austin wasn’t the only person Dahlquist flattered into this new project; she asked me to do the costumes. Apparently, flattery works. Austin wrote the score and I made the costumes. Of course, that is only part of the story. There were many others dedicated to getting the society off and running.

The next production was Spirit Moon, an historical opera set in B.C. at the time of confederation. Again, Austin wrote the score and I was once again flattered into costuming. Actually, it was a challenge making cedar clothing. You always learn something. Some performances of Spirit Moon were held at Fort Langley national historic site. With an outdoor stage, the cast and crew learned to deal with rain, heat and mosquitoes – just another

learning experience. If that cedar clothing had been made out of real cedar bark, bet that would have warded off those biting bugs! The Tinker of Tivoli is the eighth production from the society. Tinker, like its 2011 show, Pandora’s Box, was created by the Youth Opera of New Jersey. Austin suggested Tinker as the next production, but Dahlquist was concerned that “we wouldn’t be able to find enough young men for the opera.”

No worries. Brad Dewar, newly from the Fraser Valley Gilbert & Sullivan Society, plays Beppe, the Tinker, and Joe Messner, who has appeared in all the YPOS operas, plays Tinker’s nemesis, Luigi.

YPOS has found a home at Newton Cultural Centre, and Dahlquist gives heaps of praise to the Arts Council of Surrey and president Carol Girardi for all the help and support. Dahlquist has other thankyous, too, for the Mister Blake Foundation (providing much needed funds) and sponsors (the City of Surrey’s Cultural Grant Committee, Fraser Valley Gilbert & Sullivan Society and Vancouver Opera Association). And our thanks to you, too, Patricia (artistic director) and George (music director).

The Tinker of Tivoli runs at Newton Cultural Centre (13530 72nd Ave., Surrey) from June 25 to 29, with 7:30 p.m. curtain Wednesday to Saturday and 2 p.m. curtain

Sunday. Adult tickets are $15, children $10, via 604-594-2700. This fairy tale-like story will, I think, appeal to many people, young and old alike. And before you ask, no – I didn’t make the costumes.

Here’s the story: Beppe, the tinker of Tivoli, is tired of having to fix everyone’s household items for free. He feels he is just not getting enough respect from his fellow Tivolians. In a fit of anger, defending his pie from flies, he kills a bunch of them with one swat of his fly swatter. This gives him the idea that he can become the town’s hero, as soon as everyone knows he has killed seven in one blow. The villagers are highly impressed – everyone, that is, except, Luigi, the town cynic and Beppe’s sworn enemy.

Meanwhile, Ernesto, Luigi’s son, has fallen in love with Nannina, Beppe’s daughter. The two young are trying to get together but are having difficulty communicating. As Beppe’s fame gets bigger and his good reputation gets better, Luigi becomes more determined to bring him down. Luigi challenges Beppe to a contest of skill and uncovers the deception. At the end of the opera, everyone is singing up a storm – and eating pie! I don’t think any actual flies were injured in the making of this opera. There may be real pie. There definitely will be singing and a happily-ever-after ending. Just what we need to start summer.

melminty@telus.net

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