Boos are expected, and welcomed, when the Queen of the Night takes her bows.
That's Opéra Louisiane's best indicator that kids are enjoying "The Magic Flute."
"Kids are more honest than any other audience," says Rebekah Howell, who plays the queen in the company's production. "I teach voice in Houston, and I give presentations at the schools. I sing the 'Doll Song' for them, which has a lot of high notes. I'll never forget one little girl telling me afterward, 'You remind me of Fiona in "Shrek," when she made the bird explode.'"
'I'll always remember that," Howell continues. "Kids are definitely honest, and it's always amazing to see their excitement."
Opéra Louisiane will perform Mozart's "The Magic Flute" for school groups from throughout the area on Wednesday and Thursday in the Raising Cane's River Center Theatre for the Performing Arts.
The public performance follows at 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 29, where youngsters are invited to come in costumes and trick-or-treat in the theater lobby after the show. There also will be photo booths where you can have your picture taken made with show's characters.
"Our only requests are no scary costumes, and no masks for adults," says Leanne Clement, general director. "But we know we're going to be seeing a lot of princesses and Spidermen. We're looking forward to all the costumes."
"The Magic Flute" is Opéra Louisiane's Young People's Opera Program production, which focuses on kids and families to introduce them to opera.
The production is performed in English with a few modern references thrown in for fun, but the story and music belongs to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who filled it with his humor and drama.
The opera, which dates to 1791, tells the story of the Queen of the Night, who persuades Prince Tamino, played by Martin Bakari, to rescue her daughter, Pamina, played by Laura Leon. Pamina is supposedly being held captive by high priest Sarastro. The high priest isn't evil, but lives by high ideals and challenges Tamino and Pamina with several trials. These tests of love take their toll on the couple but prove their love is true.
Meanwhile, Tamino's comical travel companion, Papageno, played by Markel Reed, also is tested, and finds love with the lovely Papagena, played by Amy Stone.
None of this is good news for the Queen of the Night, who schemes in the background. Her fate, of course, is found in "The Magic Flute's" finale, so no spoilers here.
Stone is the only principal cast member living in Baton Rouge. She's originally from south Florida but is a voice student in the LSU School of Music. She has performed in Opéra Louisiane's chorus, but Papagena is her first principal role with the company. The other principals are making their Opéra Louisiane debuts in this production.
"Papageno was my first role," says Reed, who lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, but hails from New York. "I played Papageno in Weimar, Germany, and I'm quite fond of the role."
Audience members may see Papageno as cowardly, which is part of his comic appeal, but Reed sees something more.
"He's not afraid to show how he feels," he says. "I love that he represents the everyday man, that he's raw. He represents all of us."
Bakari, who lives in Ohio but also makes New York his home, is a first-timer to "The Magic Flute."
"I sing a lot of Mozart, but now I get to sing some of the most beautiful Mozart in the world in this opera," he says.
This opera ultimately is the story of knowledge, truth, friendship and love, Bakari says, adding, "Tamino searches for answers to these bold questions. All of these big topics are in one opera."
Leon, as Tamino's love interest, is a native of Cuba and lives in Miami. Children, she says, are her favorite audiences.
"In the Miami Opera, we perform our final rehearsals for kids," she says. "It's like a rock concert. They love it, and they pay attention. When we did 'Carmen,' they shouted, 'cheater' at Carmen. They aren't afraid of expressing how they feel."
So, they will boo when the Queen of the Night takes her bows.
"Yes, you will definitely get booed," Clement tells Howell. "It always happens, and it's great. That's when we know we've done our job."
The Magic Flute
Opera Louisiane's Young People's Opera Program production
WHEN: 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 29
WHERE: Raising Cane's River Center Theatre for the Performing Arts, 220 St. Louis St., Baton Rouge
TICKETS/INFO: $18. Free for ages 18 and younger and college students with ID. (225) 377-2029 or operalouisiane.com