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The snake with a song in his heart

IPFW’s Sid the Serpent Who Wanted to Sing is a fun-filled opera for children of all ages

By Michael Summers

michael_summers@fortwaynereader.com

Fort Wayne Reader

2005-11-14


The road to fulfilling your dreams is a long and winding one. You could almost say it’s serpentine, especially if you’re a snake. That’s the message in Sid the Serpent Who Wanted to Sing, a colorful children’s opera presented by IPFW’s Opera Ensemble.

Sid is a serpent with a steady job slithering in the circus, but he’s bored with the same old wavy snake dance show after show. Besides, he holds another ambition deep in his snakely heart: he wants to sing. The problem is, he’s not very good at it. Foiled by his circus colleagues at every attempt to set free the song in his heart, Sid packs his bags and slithers off to Rome for voice lessons, eventually traveling the world as he tries to master different singing styles and winding up in New York as part of an American Idol type of show. In each and every situation, the results are… well, let’s just say the audience finds much more to smile (and laugh) about than Sid does. In the end, Sid finds happiness and his own voice with a little help from his friends.

Packed with colorful costumes and lots of spectacle and humor, Sid the Serpent isn’t an opera in the classical sense. “It’s a children’s opera. It’s really designed to introduce school-age children to the concept of opera,” says the director, Associate Professor Allen Saunders. “Even though it has some spoken dialogue, most of the action is sung.”

John Todd plays the hapless Sid. He told Emily Hammond, Arts Writer for VPA Visions, the newsletter for IPFW Visual and Performing Arts. that he thinks the opera is about chasing your dreams. “The show is also about having friends there to pick you up when you fall, to let you know that you really are someone special,” he says.

With the exception of soprano Heather Atkinson, who played a witch in Dido and Aeneas last year, the six cast members of Sid the Serpent are all taking their first turn in the spotlight at IPFW with this production — sort of like Sid, except this cast can actually sing. Most of them have served in the chorus of other stage productions at the school.

Saunders explains that one of the goals of the Opera Ensemble is to introduce the young singers to the concept of incorporating acting and movement on stage with singing. Susanne Aschliman, the second soprano, says performing in Sid the Serpent is helping her prepare for her senior recital next semester. “I want to be able to better convey my songs, get used to being on stage and presenting in front of an audience,” she says.

Though “fun” seems to be the operating word with Sid the Serpent, the production offers its own challenges to the actors. “Just the fact that it’s such a small cast, it makes you more responsible for your part,” says Ashley Treadway, the mezzo soprano in Sid the Serpent. “There’s one song the bass (Matt Pulley) and I sing, and it’s vocally taxing. There’re a lot of sustained notes that you wouldn’t think would be hard, but you have to adjust your technique to be able to sing these notes for a long time, while making it interesting and fun (for the audience).”

Besides, having fun on stage, or at least looking like you’re having fun on stage, can be hard work. “As serious musicians, we sometimes don’t let ourselves let loose,” Treadway adds. “But once you really know your music, and get into the acting part of it, it’s really fun.”

Friday, Nov. 18 and Saturday, Nov. 19, 7:30 p.m.
Neff Recital Hall, IPFW campus
Admission: $4 and under
For information call the Department of Music at 260-481-6714

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