Something quite new for the town came to Stony Stratford one May day when Ad Parnassum, a professional, young opera group, introduced the children of St Mary & St Giles School to the delights, theatre and power of live opera.
They started out with a series of 4 workshops in the school (in both south and north sites) when the conductor Riccardo Parravicini, director Maria-Lisa Geyer and 'Galatea' Susanna MacRae explored the story of Acis and Galatea with the children, introduced them to opera singing and taught them the chorus "Happy we".
On the day of the performance the children were treated to seeing the dress rehearsal in the church, though each group from the two sites saw either act 1 or act 2, they did not see the whole opera during rehearsal.
A sizable group of children participated in the final performance. As Mr Salter explained when he welcomed everyone and introduced the opera company including the Italian Baroque chamber orchestra, for many of the children this was their first experience of theatre, let alone opera and it had produced some intense and lively interest among the children, who were especially impressed with the sheer volume of sound which the professionally trained human singing voice can produce.
The children had created posters for the opera and one was used for the programme while the others were pinned to display boards in the entrance to the church. The Year 6 children baked cakes in school for the interval refreshments.
The cast of Handel's 'Acis and Galatea':
- Conductor: Riccardo Parravicini
- Galatea: Susanna MacRae
- Acis: Laurence Panter
- Polypheme: Samuel Lom
- Damon: Gregoire Mourichoux
- Chorus: Maria-Lisa Geyer, James Hutchings, Daniel Hanlon, Fraser Paterson
- Orchestra of L'Offerta Musicale di Venezia
- Director: Maria-Lisa Geyer
- Set and costume design: Lucy Alexander
- Choreographer: Roberto De Gregori
Feedback afterwards included:
- Thank you for having the courage to accept the challenge of letting the children in our school have the opportunity to take part in an opera. The work you have both put in has given so much to the school children and to us who had the privilege of seeing them perform with such confidence these memories will stay with them all their lives. They were so well behaved throughout the evening and in fact could have taught a few of the audience how you should conduct yourself at a professional performance.
- Congratulations to the opera company and the wonderful orchestra for treating us to a memorable evening.
- To have a real Italian Baroque Orchestra and superb quality singers in Stony Stratford was a rare treat!!
Please pass on my heartfelt congratulations to all who helped, for organising such a high quality event for the children of Stony. It was a memorable event, and a privilege to help in any way at all.
- Galatea sang like an angel - and so did I!
- So full of emotion, a wonderful performance
- The children were engrossed from the first moment and performed so well.
- I have never been to an opera, but I will go again now.
- I loved it!
- Such fun
- Perfect evening
- Where did you find this group - they are excellent
- From Ad Parnassum: we have been made so welcome, we don't get fed at any other places, the children are so well behaved.
- Stony Stratford and SMSG are 'all heart'
The atmosphere in the church for this wonderful production was happy, as the excited children awaited the start. Ad Parnassum had decided to perform near the font in front of the gallery so the chairs were turned. I was asked to film a few video extracts for the opera company as well as take photos, it was so picturesque it was impossible not to take lots of photos. It was fabulous to have professional opera company in the church performing with our local school children and was such a memorable evening.
For the complete album of 148 photos! see Acis and Galatea in Stony Stratford
Words and photos by Anna Page