Times Colonist

Grade 5s to play Mozart’s Flute

- GRANIA LITWIN

They may be young and their voices may be unseasoned but Grade 5 students at St. Michaels University School’s junior school are going for the gusto and putting on their own version of The Magic Flute at the McPherson Playhouse on Thursday.

Mozart’s 1791 opera has been condensed from three hours down to about 1 1/2, and translated from the original German into a more manageable English by choir master Duncan Frater, who has also written several new parts so all the 51 kids in his class can perform.

“I’ve basically taken the story and paraphrase­d here and there, added certain lines and taken things away in order to make it appropriat­e for the kids who are aged 11, 10 and one is five.”

He said the children are singing many famous arias, duets and trios, the way Mozart originally scored the opera, and the traditiona­l story has been preserved, although he has made several songs shorter.

The kids are being accompanie­d by a small pit orchestra made up of parents, teachers and volunteer musicians.

“The story is an intricate mix of adventure, charm, wit and fantasy,” he says, “and the characters are complex, diverse and mischievou­s. The music of Mozart carries us through the story, weaving among the many conflicts and relationsh­ips between the characters.”

How does his young cast manage to sing all the deeper, darker roles?

“We’ve solved that by shifting all the bass and baritone roles up an octave,” he says. “In some ways it makes it harder to distinguis­h between the characters, but Sarastro for instance is a very low bass, so even when it’s raised an octave he sounds pretty low.”

This is the second opera Frater has mounted. Two years ago it was Die Fledermaus by Johann Strauss.

“It’s amazing how the kids have taken to opera. They don’t even flinch. They do it as if it’s normal and every other child is singing the same kind of thing.”

His favourite part in The Magic Flute is bad guy tenor Monostatos. “The character is quite animated but also quite violent with the protagonis­t, Princess Pamina. He has fun throwing her around the stage. It’s comical but effective, and they are singing at the same time.”

Tickets at the McPherson box office, 386-6121.

PREVIEW What: The Magic Flute When: 1 p.m., 7 p.m., Thursday Where: McPherson Playhouse Tickets: $15; $5 for students at matinee, $12 at 7 p.m.: Tel. 386-6121

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