Kameron Lopreore was relieved after his Thursday performance in Opera Louisiane’s production of Mozart’s “The Magic Flute.”
The show marked the first time he’s performed in front of an audience of children, one of two annual school productions in Opera Louisiane’s Young People’s Opera program.
A second school performance is set for Friday, followed by a public performance at 2 p.m. Saturday at First Baptist Church of Baton Rouge, 529 Convention St.
“As of last year, 20,000 schoolchildren have seen our Young People’s Opera since we started the program five years ago,” said Leanne Clement, Opera Louisiane’s executive director. “This year, we’re adding 3,000 more to that number.”
And Lopreore was afraid the first batch of those 3,000 might boo him in the Thursday performance.
“Kids are honest, and I wanted this to be a great performance for them, because I love opera and I want them to love it,” he said. “But I had to go to the doctor with laryngitis at the beginning of this week. I was upset, because I thought I might not be able to sing.”
But Lopreore did sing in the role of the story’s hero, Prince Tamino, and he received a standing ovation at the end from the auditorium filled with fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders.
He was happy with the response but even happier at the opera’s reception.
“Opera is one of my deepest loves,” he said. “I believe it’s one of the most beautiful and complete art forms, and it’s my hope that this performance will inspire these kids to listen to more opera and classical music.”
Lopreore’s sentiment is echoed by Opera Louisiane’s mission to educate children about opera through its Young People’s Opera program. The company handed out classroom material to teachers after the performance, along with free passes for students and their parents to the Saturday performance.
“Not all of the kids here will want to sing, but maybe they’ll develop an appreciation for opera through this program,” Lopreore said.
Joanna McBride walked away from the show with a better understanding of opera.
“This was my first time to see an opera,” the 11-year-old fifth-grader said. “The kids in my class were like, ‘Oh, we’re going to the opera,’ but they really got into it.”
Joanna is a student at the Baton Rouge Foreign Language Academic Immersion Magnet School. She attended the show with Bruno Perquot’s French class, which included fellow classmate and 11-year-old Joseph Ambeau.
Joseph’s mother, Jennine Grego, has performed in New Orleans Opera Association productions, so he already was familiar with the art form.
“But I had never seen ‘The Magic Flute,’ ” he said. “I didn’t know it was going to be so funny.”
“The Magic Flute” is a fairy tale whose star-crossed Prince Tamino and Princess Pamina must overcome a series of obstacles before they can get married. Tamino’s comic sidekick, Papageno, also faces a series of challenges before he finds love.
Opera Louisiane performed the opera in English and peppered it with some modern-day references.
“This opera would be a great experience for kids who have never seen one,” Joseph said.
“I would tell kids that the music was good and the acting was good — everything was good,” Joanna added.
And though Lopreore received cheers, there were a few cast members who were heftily booed.
“We knew the kids would boo the singers playing the bad guys in the end,” Lopreore said. “That’s part of the fun.”