TFCO: Opera Trek, The Next Generation l-r: Henry Kemeny-Wodlinger, Viva Egoyan-Rokeby, Emma Thornton-Ockrant, and David Grace. Photo: Greg Finney.

TFCO: Opera Trek, The Next Generation

Greg Finney

Well, I have good news to report. The future of opera is in good hands.

After an awesome afternoon at Daniels Spectrum on Dundas East with the Toronto Festival of Children’s Opera, I feel confident that Canada is in for a long run of great talent. The festival will be producing two works by composer/librettist Dean Burry: The Hobbit with the Canadian Children’s Opera Company and The Sword in the Schoolyard with VIVA! Youth Singers. The former is based on the perennial J. R. R. Tolkien classic, and the latter a retelling of the legend of King Arthur. As part of David Day’s talk on Tolkien and Arthurian mythology, Swords and Songs, I caught samplings of the two works in question.

I was amazed. In The Hobbit, not only did the CCOC sing beautifully, but they did it in High Elvish - some things that makes this Tolkien fan light up! In The Sword in the Schoolyard we heard a bright, sunny trio from the Older Arthur, Lance, and Gwen. It was one of those great, before-everything-goes-wrong kind of numbers.

I got to chat with a few of the next generation involved in Burry’s The Sword in the Schoolyard: Viva Egoyan-Rokeby (young Morgan), David Grace (young Arthur), Emma Thornton-Ockrant (young Gwen), and Henry Kemeny-Wodlinger (young Mordred).

What do you like about opera?

Viva: I like singing with other people and in a chorus. And then working with sets and props and costumes.

David: Just like what Viva said, all the different art forms you get to work with, like you have properties, and costumes and choreography and singing and accompaniment or orchestral, all that is just really fun to do.

Emma I got started in musical theatre, and opera is just like an extension of that. It tells a story in a little more detail, I find. Especially when you’re in a huge chorus you get to work so many more people, which is different than musical theatre.

Henry: I’ve always loved to sing and act, so opera is basically my dream come true because I get to do both.

Photo courtesy of VIVA! Youth Singers.

You’re working on *The Sword in the Schoolyard**right now; tell me who you’re playing in the show and what your favourite part of the show is.

Viva: I’m playing young Morgan. My favourite part of the show is the end of the second scene, the last time you see the younger leads. You have a group of us singing the major parts of our aria over each other - like a canon, but not really.

David: I play young Arthur and my favourite part is when my character pulls Excalibur out of the stone, and before this he’s been ridiculed and and now everyone is bowing down to him because he’s the king, and it’s really cool to see that transformation.

Emma: I play young Gwen (Guinevere) and my favourite part of the show, it’s at the end of the second scene, where we’re all dealing with our own problems. Then they all come together in one piece.

Henry: I’m playing young Mordred and I like my aria, where everyone’s gone off to party and I’m left kind of brooding because Arthur’s neglecting me.

What’s been your favourite part of the rehearsal process?

Viva: I think my favourite part is probably right now when you start putting together the props and the scenery and you start to see the opera coming together.

David: She kinda stole mine! Seeing it as a project, because last year we worked on individual snippets of the script; then in January we started working on the whole opera and our individual parts; then the costumes and the orchestra, and then see the whole thing coming together is really satisfying.

Emma: A lot of people have been with VIVA! for years, and started working on this before I even got here it’s interesting to know that this is such a big project and seeing how excited people are about it. It’s cool to see how much work can go into just four days.

Henry: I like when we finally see the set, it really helps me set the atmosphere of the whole show.

Photo courtesy of VIVA! Youth Singers.

VIVA! Youth Singers’ production of The Sword in the Schoolyard runs June 3-5 at Daniels Spectrum. The Canadian Children’s Opera Company’s presentation of The Hobbit runs June 9-12 at the Harbourfront Centre Theatre.

Like I said, the future of opera in Canada is in good hands, but not if we don’t go out and support it. Grab a bunch of tickets for you and some friends, and let these kids wow you like they wowed me.

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