Josiah Thompson (left) and Rebecca Wesner (right) along with other students from Ponoka visit backstage with some of the performers of the opera Madame Butterfly.

Josiah Thompson (left) and Rebecca Wesner (right) along with other students from Ponoka visit backstage with some of the performers of the opera Madame Butterfly.

Ponoka students gifted with opera excursion

High school students of Ponoka Secondary Campus (PSC), St. Augustine Catholic School and the Ponoka Outreach School recently attended

High school students of Ponoka Secondary Campus (PSC), St. Augustine Catholic School and the Ponoka Outreach School recently attended the opera Madame Butterfly in Edmonton, through a Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) initiative focused on providing more arts and culture opportunities to youths.

Last spring FCSS sent surveys out into the community in hopes of gaining a greater understanding of what people wanted for Ponoka and what they felt was lacking; respondents indicated that high school youth wanted more access to arts and culture.

FCSS board member Lauraine Weir says FCSS paid the $300 to bus the students to Edmonton while they each paid the $15 ticket price to attend the opera’s dress rehearsal. “They open up the auditorium for dress rehearsals to students.”

“Not only did students get to experience something fantastic, we got to do it reasonably,” said PSC student Rebecca Wesner.

Weir pitched the idea to PSC vice-principal Kathy McTaggart and from there the project was a go. “I thought it was a great experience for the kids, something they don’t get to do,” said McTaggart.

Wesner, Josiah Thompson and Courtney Chesterman, all PSC students, fell in love with their first opera experience and, by their next day of classes, were already convincing those who didn’t attend to make the trip to the opera if given the opportunity.

“It was amazing,” said Chesterman, who, among others, got teary and emotionally invested in the tragic story.

“Their voices were tremendous. You listen to voices on the radio and it was nothing like that,” Thompson added. “It really showcases the human voice.”

It was the talent of the singers voices that most captivated the three students, the fact the it was in Italian didn’t take anything away in their eyes.

Because it was a trip to a dress rehearsal the students were also given a tour of the backstage areas. “It was a star struck moment. Like, this person was just on stage singing beautiful opera,” said Chesterman.

“It was culturally wicked,” Thompson added.

Students toured the prop room where they learned about the rope and pulley system used to move everything around and how every piece of the opera had to be no taller than eight feet to fit in trucks; later they are glued back together. “It was really intricate,” said Wesner.

The three students agree in experiencing the opera, the biggest benefit to them was the exposure to a different medium of art than they’re accustomed to.

“That’s kind of how it is with art. You don’t really know it’s there and how awesome it is until you see it at least once,” said Chesterman. “It’s definitely something you need to instill in people while they’re still young.”