Four young artists gathered in Cedar Rapids in December to record the annual children’s opera
December 3 was cold and bleak, but the atmosphere inside the Paramount Theater was warm and bright as four young singers took turns performing arias and posing for video closeups, all part of preparations for the Cedar Rapids Opera Theatre's annual children’s opera, The Enchanted Forest.
This performance will also be released March 11 as part of the 2nd Thursday Series, but its main goal is to educate elementary students about the arts and opera. And because the opera was videotaped this year instead of performed live, it will be possible to expand the number of children who see it, says Lori Lane, CR Opera Executive Director.
"Since we're doing everything virtually and there’s no travel involved, we have the opportunity to reach a much larger geographic area of eastern Iowa," said Lane. "It's a silver lining in an unusual year."
The Enchanted Forest lineup is impressive and includes two artists from the 2019 production of the opera: Benjamin Burney, tenor, and Jacob Lay, baritone. Two new artists are also part of this year's performance: Avery Nabholz, soprano, and Bridget Johnston, mezzo soprano. All four are part of CR Opera’s Young Artist Program.
For these young artists, the opportunity to travel to Cedar Rapids and perform in person with other artists was exciting. Due to the Covid-19 restrictions, many artists have been forced to practice alone and to delay performances.
"This is the first time that I've collaborated in person with other people in eleven months, which is huge," said Johnston. "One of the biggest things coming back to singing with other artists is feeling like, 'Gosh, do I remember how to do this?' And the answer is yes, it feels like riding a bike."
During their stay in Cedar Rapids, the young artists observed Covid-19 safety measures but still took advantage of the time they had together. They shared jokes and teased each other and took snack breaks in the darkened wings of the theater. During interviews with videographer Clay Bergren, there were even a few tears of joy.
"Music is my identity, and with Covid-19 restrictions, I have felt like I have lost myself because I can't perform," said Nabholz. "And so, this opportunity reminds me why I love music so much. It has just felt so good to make music with people again, and I'm so grateful to be here. Thank you, Cedar Rapids Opera Theatre."
Stay tuned for more details about the March 11 release of The Enchanted Forest.
Photos show: (left) Jacob Lay and Avery Nabholz; (right) pianist Gail Williams and an empty Paramount Theater.