- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 12, 2004

Arianna Geneson, 13, will end her summer on a high note.

Rather than spending the dog days of summer loafing and dreading the reopening of school, Arianna and 28 other area children — ages 10 to 14 — are preparing to perform in the world premiere of an opera tomorrow and Sunday.

The youngsters have been at the Washington National Opera’s 10th Annual Opera Camp and are prepping for the premiere of “The Enchantment of Dreams,” an opera created by composer Cary John Franklin and librettist Michael Patrick Albano.

“This is my third year at the camp, and I’ve been dancing and acting since I was very young,” Arianna said.

The pressure of performing an opera for the first time in front of an audience might be too much for many her age, but Arianna says she is looking forward to tomorrow’s first performance.

“I’m not really that nervous,” said Arianna, a student at Carl Sandburg Middle School in Alexandria. “Mostly I’m excited.”

The children will perform the 45-minute opera tomorrow and Sunday at the Roundhouse Theater at noon and 2 p.m.

Washington National Opera is presenting the opera along with the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis. The opera’s story is centered around three children — an artist, an athlete and a musician — who accompany their class on a museum trip. The museum guide gives them noosha sticks, artifacts that enable the students to communicate with their ancestors through dreams.

Arianna plays the artist; Jacob Temple, 13, of Fairfax, has the role of the athlete; and Claire Lyon, 14, of Bethesda plays the musician.

The music performed by the cast is a mix of angelic solos and whimsical chorus numbers, with a hint of Freddie Mercury of Queen.

The children began gearing up July 19 for this weekend’s performance, with daily rehearsals from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. As the show date drew near, the children grew slightly fidgety during rehearsals, but mostly remained attentive.

“Some of the younger ones have trouble [focusing],” said Lee Anne Myslewski, the program’s administrator. “A lot of these kids are middle schoolers, and these are long days, so staying focused is a little tough sometimes for a couple of them.”

Arianna said despite many of the performers being so young, the cast members generally maintained their composure.

“We try to stay focused,” Arianna said. “We do a pretty good job.”

Miss Myslewski said the children worked hard and are well-prepared, but she expects opening-day jitters to hit a few of them.

“I think a few of them will have a little stage fright,” Miss Myslewski said. “They’re OK now during rehearsals, but when they see that audience out there for the first time, it’ll get some of them.”

Of the 29 students, 14 are from the District, eight are from Maryland and six are from Virginia. One student is from Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The camp gave some of them their first taste of opera.

They were introduced to opera through lessons, master classes and workshops, including sessions on vocal technique, yoga for singers, performance strategies, crafts, opera history, character development and makeup.

The children were selected from among 80 who auditioned to attend the camp. The tuition for the program was $1,400, Miss Myslewski said, but about 41 percent of the children received scholarships to attend.

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