Young Artists to present ‘Alex and Alice in Operaland’

At the Manhattan School of Music, Gordon Ostrowski instructs students how to take proper headshots, walk like a Victorian in style classes and build professional resumes.

He also writes operas for children.

At 6 p.m. tonight in Smith Wilkes Hall, the Chautauqua Opera Company will premiere  “Alex and Alice in Operaland,” a musical theater revue featuring members of its Young Artist program.

The brainchild of Artistic/General Director Jay Lesenger, the revue will also show on July 15 and 29. Ostrowski, who penned the show’s libretto, said that this is an extension of his outreach initiative — his goal to prove that opera can be appropriate for all ages.

“It’s teaching children to learn to love opera,” he said. “That opera can be fun, opera can be exciting and that it can be dramatic.”

Whether it be reviving, re-creating, or adapting a certain opera for a fresh audience, Ostrowski said that there must be “resistance to make it too dramatic,” especially for children. There’s also polarity in his initiative: one side is educational, he said, the other is “fanciful.”

Come showtime, it’s all about involvement.

“The trick,” he said, “is to make these performances relatable to children, to find a device that makes it more engaging to them.”

And that device is tonight’s familiar tale. Influenced by Lewis Carroll’s story, characters Alice and Alex, brother and sister, fall down into a rabbit hole and come out in the enchanting world of “Operaland.”

Alex, played by Jesus Vicente Murillo, is initially stubborn to trying the music of Verdi, Puccini and Mozart. Poor, provincial Alex, who would rather listen to the pop music on his iPod, is eventually persuaded by his loving sister, played by Rebekah Howell, to open up as the two of them cycle through a pastiche of song, the wonderful realm of Operaland.

Andy Gale, director of tonight’s revue, said that the show isn’t just for children.

“We are aiming to present to a family audience so that they get to know what opera is about,” he said. “It’s opera appreciation.”

And tonight’s appreciation isn’t just opera-filled. It’s a smorgasbord of musical stylings, stitched together by the flavors of Broadway, barber shop quartet and even Disney.

Alex and Alice will be moving quickly through popular operas such as the trio from The Marriage of Figaro and arias from La bohème, among many others. It’s the unamplified strength of 18 Studio Artists’ voices, Gale said, that will make the revue extraordinary.

“It will be visceral,” he said. “And gutsy.”

Gale, along with his fellow directors Keith Burton and Teddy Kern, believes that opera — and all other arts — can be enjoyed by all ages on different levels. Children can learn from a story of Madam Butterfly just as they can from a fantasy tale. Adults, they said, can absorb and appreciate their show just as much as their kids — although in different degrees.

“You get what you get at the level you receive it,” he said.

Kern doesn’t bother with distinctions.

“What we’re doing can be seen as education and entertainment,” he said. “It’s all meshed together.”

Ostrowski and the team of directors aim to inspire children to love music, present the “magic” in Operaland and hopefully turn some “Alexs” into “Alices.”

Ostrowski’s maxim is simple.

“Opera is fun,” he said. “Opera is for everyone.”

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