About 3,000 schoolchildren have seen it, and now the public will get its shot at a children’s opera at UC Merced this weekend.
A public performance of “Who Stole B-Flat?” by Nancy Steele Brokaw is set for 2 p.m. Saturday in Lakireddy Auditorium at UC Merced, 5200 N. Lake Road. There’s a suggested donation of $5 general, $3 for children.
“It’s a fast-paced, funny, thrilling performance with plenty of heart and lots of glorious music,” Steele Brokaw said. “It’s a mystery and the audience gets to solve the clues along with the cast.”
The story focuses on Princess Aria of Singlandia, who has until midnight of her 18th birthday to reverse the Sleeping Beauty-style curse placed on her at birth by the evil Queen Leather Boots. Aria has spent her life in the castle of her uncle, the enigmatic Count Pizzacato, under the care of Nanny Goody and Mr. Buttle.
“They are all played by the same person, with many hilarious costume changes,” Steele Brokaw said of Princess Aria’s guardians. “Her only company has been a pet bat, Inky.”
“On the eve of her birthday, Prince Poco Pants and Prince Forte show up,” she continued. “Will they unravel the clues in time to keep Aria wide awake? Or will all of Singlandia fall silent as Aria slips into everlasting sleep?”
The presentation of “Who Stole B-Flat?” is part of an effort to expose Merced County youths to opera and theater. Performances for schoolchildren took place all week at UC Merced.
Director Jenni Samuelson said she is thrilled with how the production has come together and how it is being received by the community.
“This project is so dear to me because it is such a great combined effort between UC Merced, the Merced County Office of Education and private donors who see the value in arts education,” she said. “It’s also incredible to see thousands of area schoolchildren coming out to the campus, many who are there for the first time.”
Her favorite part, she said, is watching the reaction of the students to the production.
“I just can’t stop grinning while sitting backstage,” Samuelson said. “They are completely engaged from start to finish and become so invested in trying to solve the mystery. They even sing along at several points in the opera. It’s brilliant.
“Nancy Steele Brokaw is a master at writing libretti that keep children of all ages entertained and engaged,” the director said.
“And it is amazing how amidst the hilarious characters and situations, she manages to weave critical lessons into the fabric of the plot, lessons such as how important it is to pay attention and do the right thing, no matter how difficult it is.”
Co-producer Katherine Brokaw has also been delighted by the response of audiences from throughout Merced.
“Children and adults have been loving this production,” she said. “There are loads of funny moments brought on by clever writing as well as fabulous physical comedy, and there is adventure and interactive clue-solving that keeps children, and adults, involved and engaged.
“And on top of all that great storytelling, this is an opportunity to hear some of the top opera talent in Northern California singing gorgeous arias.
“There’s something for everyone.”
For more information, email Jenni Samuelson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
At a glance
“Who Stole B-Flat?”
- When: 2 p.m. Saturday
- Where: UC Merced’s Lakireddy Theater
- Cost: Suggested donation of $5 general, $3 for children