Wallyhooder Kimberly writes:
My daughter and another Wallyhood resident will be performing in an adaptation of Handel’s Serse at the Good Shepherd Center this weekend. The main character, Serse, reminds me very much of a certain orange-skinned president. It’s eerie how relevant an eighteenth–century piece can seem!
There are some amazingly talented young people singing, playing period instruments, dancing and acting. We would love to present it to our neighbors!
Saturday, March 25, 2017 at the Good Shepherd Center
Performances at 3:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.
Admission is $12 adults / $6 under 18
Tickets are available via the Early Music Guild website
More about Seattle Historical Arts for Kids and this weekend’s performances below.
With an inclusive cast of actors and singers aged 7-17 accompanied by nationally-recognized professional musicians on period instruments, Seattle Historical Arts for Kids delivers a humorous new adaptation of George Frederick Handel’s 1738 opera Serse at Wallingford’s Good Shepherd Center. The performances, at 3pm and 7pm on March 25, are co-presented with Seattle’s Early Music Guild.
The adaptation transforms Handel’s three-hour all-sung original into an entertaining one-hour spoken play interspersed with more than a dozen of the work’s most engaging arias, choruses, and instrumental movements. The eighteenth-century aesthetic is lovingly invoked by period costumes, which the young students bring to life with Baroque dance, fencing, and gesture, all in styles re-created from period sources.
“The dance material of the early 18th century is as complex as the music, and it calls for great stage presence and an elegant confidence,” notes guest choreographer Jamia Hansen-Murray. The children enjoy the challenge, says parent Heather Sanchez, whose 13-year-old daughter will be appearing as a lead dancer in her eighth theatrical performance with SHAK: “When people ask her whether she likes dancing, she always replies that she only likes Baroque dancing.”
There are modern twists, says SHAK founding director Shulamit Kleinerman, who scanned dozens of opera plots looking for one that would speak to her students: “I wasn’t willing to cast middle-school girls as the passive, two-dimensional love objects that are commonly seen in the period.” One of Serse’s heroines disguises herself as a man to spy on the king and even draws her sword to defend another woman, who then forms an alliance with her. Kleinerman’s adaptation adds roles customized for younger children and less experienced singers to participate.
Though the opera—written in London for Italian opera singers who had fled the all-male Italian stage tradition—is named for Xerxes the Great, it has nothing historically to do with the ancient Persian king. But the libretto explores the lives of characters living under a self-absorbed ruler, Kleinerman says, “in a way that some audience members may find relevant today. Our script touches on those questions in a very gentle, humorous, and family-friendly way.”
The event is presented on the Early Music Guild’s long-running Early Music Discovery roster, an all-ages concert series that welcomes both longtime fans of historical performance and those new to the styles. The program is geared towards elementary- and middle-school-age students and their parents, but younger children are also welcome, and the playful but artistically high-quality performances also attract an audience of adults without children.Additional vocal coaching is by Rebekah Gilmore, with duels and fencing instruction by Cecil Longino. The orchestra features Pacific Northwest early music specialists Tekla Cunningham, violin; Joanna Blendulf, viola da gamba; and John Lenti, violin, with 9th grade apprentice Tess Roberts on baroque violin.
SHAK is America’s only year-round youth program in historical music and theater. The group released its first CD in 2010 and performed its previous Baroque opera, Handel’s Alcina, at Early Music America’s Young Performers Festival in 2015 in Boston, MA, where Kleinerman was honored with EMA’s national Outreach Award.
“The kids throw themselves into each project with such enthusiasm,” says Baroque voice expert Nancy Zylstra, who coaches the singers: “SHAK is a real treasure.” Stage director Carmen Mettler, longtime stage manager for the Puget Sound Revels, adds, “The kids are uncommonly accepting of each other. Seeing them find themselves in another century is the most fun part.”