The sparkle in her eyes

Brian Anderson (Frederic) in Arizona Opera's "The Pirates of Penzance" (Photo: Tim Fuller)

I met a delightful girl and her mother recently during intermission at a matinee performance of “The Pirates of Penzence” by Arizona Opera. The young girl’s eyes got wide with excitement when I asked what she thought of the show so far.

It must have been some sparkle, because it distracted me from the delicious brownie she was nibbling on. Though tempted by the cheesecake and such at the nearby coffee stand, I managed to walk away with only an iced espresso.

But back to my friend with the brownie, whose mom shared with me that she’s one of the magazine’s subscribers.

The daughter’s face completely lit up as we talked about the show. “I love it!,” she exclaimed. So I asked whether anything was a particular favorite — the music, the costumes, the humor. “I love it all!,” she beamed.

Korby Myrick (Ruth) in Arizona Opera's "The Pirates of Penzance" (Photo: Tim Fuller)

The last time I saw a young girl that excited about going to the opera, it was my own daughter — a good decade or so ago.

I was thrilled to see several children and teens in the audience for Gilbert & Sullivan’s “The Pirates of Penzance,” conducted by Joel Revzen and directed for Arizona Opera by David Ira Goldstein of Arizona Theatre Company.

The other parents and youth I spoke with — including a dad named Steve and his daughter, and a dad (also a magazine subscriber) there with his wife and two sons — also seemed to be enjoying the show. Even a group of teens I spoke with gave it high marks, noting they have plans to see more operas together.

I gave several of the folks I talked with my business card and suggested they get in touch to share a bit about what their schools are doing in terms of theater, music and other arts. I’m always on the prowl for school and community art offerings.

Sarah Jane McMahon (Mable) in Arizona Opera's "The Pirates of Penzance" (Photo: Tim Fuller)

It just so happens that Arizona Opera offers several education programs, including a special opera week, teacher workshops, school tours, opera “look ins,” student dress rehearsals, study guides and opera in a box. I’ll share a bit more about those in a future post.

For now, I’m still reliving my swashbuckling good time. 

I was thrilled to see the name of Lizabeth’s longtime violin teacher, Cynthia Baker, in the program — and rushed to the pit (after the lengthy standing ovation) to chat a bit before she headed out with violin case in tow.

Then I stuck around for a talkback session with several cast and creative team members during which audience members asked about how opera singers train, how performers find just the right comedic balance, how opera differs from musical theater and more.

Curt Olds (Pirate King) in Arizona Opera's "The Pirates of Penzance" (Photo: Tim Fuller)

There was plenty to love about the show itself. The endearing word play. The performance of Curt Olds (Pirate King) — part Johnny Depp, part Jon Stewart (and ever so easy on the eyes). Baton-twirling bobbies. Chest-pounding odes to duty. Even the splits and several cartwheels from Sarah Jane McMahon (Mabel).

But the most fulfilling moments by far were the ones I spent talking with the parents, children and teens who were gracious enough to share their time and thoughts with me.

It’s the sparkle in their eyes that we all work and write for each day.

— Lynn

Up next for Arizona Opera is Georges Bizet's "Carmen"

Note: Opera buffs can enjoy the Harkins Theatres and Emerging Pictures “Opera & Ballet in Cinema” series presentation of “Das Rheingold” in three Valley movie theaters on Thurs, Nov 18. ASU Lyric Opera Theatre opens “The Secret Garden” in Tempe on Fri, Nov 19. Arizona Opera presents “Carmen” at Tucson Music Hall on Nov 13 & 14 and at Phoenix Symphony Hall on Nov 19, 20 & 21. And Phoenix Opera presents “The Magic Flute” at the Orpheum Theatre in Phoenix on Dec 3 & 5.

Coming up: From D.C. to Higley, Thespian tales, Holiday shopping museum-style, Dancing your way through the holidays