Saturday’s production of Aida is part of the Coalition on Race’s Integration through the Arts (ITA) program. ITA uses the arts as the magnet that brings people of different races and cultural backgrounds together. Past ITA programs have included community book readings, choral music, drama, dance, and photography. Each program is developed and supported by the talents of local professional artists.
This year’s production of the Verdi opera Aida for children was the vision of a team that included Lori Brown Mirabal, Doreen Oliver, Ruthanna Graves McQueen, and Audrey Rowe. In keeping with the Coalition mission of integration, they chose this opera because of its theme: people from very different backgrounds trying to overcome their differences. Ms. Mirabal, an internationally acclaimed mezzo-soprano, music educator, and principal of ‘Opera Soup Productions, LLC’ adapted the music and story for children. Ms. McQueen, a singer and actress who has appeared on and off Broadway, directed and choreographed. The show was produced by the Coalition with Doreen Oliver, a writer and film producer who worked on the film Precious.
Using her talents as a music teacher, Ms Mirabal taught the audience a few opera basics before narrating the Aida tale. Accompanying the narration was a dance interpretation of the opera.Paul Conrad, CHS graduate now studying music at Mason Gross, provided the piano accompaniment. Soprano Mirabal and Tenor Dante Fiore punctuated the narration with arias and duets, thrilling the audience with their voices.
The children were invited to sit up front on cushions so that they had a truly up close and personal experience with the performers. Even the three and four year olds were entranced by the story, singing and dancing. There were a few tears among the adults when Ms. Mirabal sang ‘O Patria Mia,’ the incredibly moving aria sung by Aida, the Ethiopian Princess, now an Egyptian slave, as she recalls her home and family.