Young people sing opera's praises
VALERIE BERRIOS /email@example.com
Published: Dec 16, 2002
Ask the average child to identify Ruggero Leoncavallo, Giacomo Puccini, Johann Strauss or Guiseppe Verdi and you may get a blank stare.
Then present them with a piece of music composed by any of these opera greats and the same child probably would tune out or maybe run screaming from the room.
But introduce children to a young, enthusiastic opera vocalist, who not only sings to them but also educates them about the history of opera and the seemingly opera-phobic youngsters might just take notice.
At least that's the idea behind Youth Opera Appreciation, an organization founded by Julia Coulmas, a 23-year-old Palm Harbor-area resident.
Coulmas has been studying opera for 10 years and became a member of the Clearwater-based Sunstate Opera when she was 15 years old.
At Sunstate, Coulmas has been the leading lyric soprano and performed in numerous operas, including "La Boheme,'' "Madama Butterfly,'' "Pagliacci,'' "Die Fledermaus'' and ""Tosca'' at local theaters and performing arts centers.
Coulmas was constantly being approached by people who, on discovering she was an opera singer, wanted to know more about the musical art form. The inquiries encouraged her to establish the Youth Opera Appreciation, which allowed her to educate others, particularly youths, about opera.
"I love opera so much I wanted to share it with people,'' she explained.
with youths Coulmas would accomplish her goal by making free presentations at libraries, schools or community centers.
Her first three presentations, assisted by YOA Secretary Sara Peeples, took place during the summer at the Palm Harbor Library.
"I was thrilled to have her offer the opera program to the library,'' said Lois Eannel, assistant director and head of youth services for the library.
All three sessions were well attended by children and adults, Eannel said.
Coulmas and Peeples presented three different operas in costume, including "Madama Butterfly,'' Puccini's East-meets-West love tragedy.
Coulmas also gave the audience a bit of history about various opera composers and the styles they popularized.
With opera, not only can one learn about music, one can also learn about the time period during which the operas were written and about cultural differences, stated Coulmas.
"The response was overwhelmingly positive,'' said Eannel, who invited Coulmas back for next summer.
Eannel said she felt the children warmed to Coulmas immediately because she is young, enthusiastic and tremendously talented.
"She really wanted to get young people involved ... and succeeded,'' she said.
Coulmas would also like to introduce the operatic versions of two popular children's
tales, "Hansel and Gretel'' by Englebert Humperdinck and Gioacchino Rossini's "La Cenerentola,'' which is based on "Cinderella,'' to students in public schools.
"I think it's a great introduction to opera,'' Coulmas said.
"They won't be so afraid of opera after they see'' these productions.
Coulmas' goal is to travel the world and become a member of prestigious opera companies.