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Merrimack Valley

October 31, 2013

Ahoy Mates!

'Pirates of Penzance' an operatic experience for young thespians

When you think opera, do you picture overzealous sopranos, viking wigs and foreign languages? Possibly. However, one local organization is aiming to change that notion by making opera fun and accessible to kids.

The Treble Chorus of New England’s Hands on Opera! is a show staged specifically for educational outreach. This year’s production, “Pirates of Penzance,” debuts tomorrow night at The West Middle School in Andover, with a second performance Saturday afternoon.

The Treble Chorus opera program allows young people who are 10 to 18 years old to get involved with all aspects of a production, from the staring roll to making the set.

“The kids do everything,” said Bernadette Lionetta, president of the board of TCNE. “We call it ‘hands on’ because even the kids who aren’t into being in the limelight can be involved. They get the whole experience of what it takes to make a production.”

Some of the stars of the show were at first intimidated by being in an opera, something that Lionetta and director Rebecca Farnham said is a common reaction to the art form.

“People are absolutely intimidated by opera,” Farnham said. “They’re amazed by it because it’s an awesome and specialized craft, but the truth is a lot more people could participate in this than think they can.”

Francesca Lionetta, Bernadette’s daughter, said she was hesitant to take a role.

“When they first asked me to be in the opera I said, ‘No thank-you.’ Then I tried it and I fell in love,” Francesca said. “I love that I get to work with people to make beautiful music together.”

Francesca is playing the lead roll of Mable in “Pirates of Penzance,” a play that she said appeals to kids.

“There is all this commotion and all this drama,” Francesa said. “It’s just hilarious.”

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