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Interlochen Arts Academy to bring “The Little Prince” to life in operatic form

Composer Rachel Portman’s opera based on the beloved book by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry will be livestreamed on the Interlochen website May 14 at 7:30 p.m.

Masked Interlochen Arts Academy students rehearse of The Little Prince

Interlochen Arts Academy students rehearse “The Little Prince.”

On May 14 at 7:30 p.m., Interlochen Arts Academy will present a livestreamed performance of The Little Prince, an opera in two acts by composer Rachel Portman based on the beloved 1943 novella by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. The performance can be streamed for free on the Interlochen website at live.interlochen.org.

For school-age viewers, Classical IPR’s award-winning Kids Commute will hold a virtual watch-along pajama party with host Kate Botello and producer Tony Bero, starting at 7 p.m. on May 14, leading up to the livestreamed performance. During the week of May 10, Kids Commute will introduce young listeners to the opera’s story, music, and performers each weekday at 7:40 a.m. on Classical IPR. To sign up to join the May 14 Zoom watch party, e-mail kidscommute@interlochen.org.

With an English libretto by Nicholas Wright, an easy-to-follow plot suitable for all ages, and rich cinematic music that Interlochen Arts Academy Instructor of Voice Dr. Laura Osgood Brown calls “ear candy,” The Little Prince is ideal for experienced opera listeners and newcomers alike.

The production also speaks to this pandemic era. “It’s about isolation and the struggle to make personal connections, which are ideas that a lot of us can relate to right now,” Brown said. “It’s also the kind of story that you can revisit at different moments in your life and discover something new each time.” 

Brown describes the opera’s score as “gorgeous and atmospheric, with beautiful lyrical lines. It sounds like film music, which is what Rachel Portman is probably best known for,” she said. Portman has scored more than 100 films.  

While staging an opera is never easy, rehearsing and performing during a pandemic demanded unusual flexibility, creativity, and problem solving. Rather than seeing the Academy’s COVID-19 precautions as distractions that could take away from the experience, Brown and her students drew on them to accentuate the story. Face masks were incorporated as part of their costumes. Performers learned important lessons about communicating with their full bodies and eyes. And the socially distanced performers on stage heighten the feelings of loneliness experienced by the characters.

“It’s an emotional role and so there are times when you feel like you should be close together on stage,” said Anne Ruhland, who plays the fox. “I’m supposed to be tamed by the prince, but for this production, we can’t get physically close. We sit and face each other, put our hands on the ground and reach out. We’ve made it a beautiful intimate moment even though we can’t be physically close.” 

The performance experience will also differ dramatically from previous years. A reduced-capacity audience of students, faculty, and staff will view the performance in person, while everyone else will watch the opera via livestream. 

To ensure a high-quality viewing experience for audiences watching from home, Brown and her students met regularly with a team of videographers and sound engineers from Interlochen Presents, the institution’s presenting department.
 
“This whole experience has shown how resilient and adaptable art and opera can be,” Brown said. “It’s been difficult at times, but our goals are to make music, tell human stories, and build connections with one another and within our community, and I think we’ve done all those things really well.” 

If time allows, Brown hopes to join Kate Botello at the Kids Commute pajama party during an intermission. “I love that we can still provide this communal experience even if we can’t be together to share it in person.”

About Classical IPR’s Kids Commute
Classical IPR’s popular Kids Commute airs weekdays at 7:40 a.m. during the school year. Host Kate Botello and producer Tony Bero introduce young people to classical music through fun weekly themes, showing that classical music isn’t fancy—it’s just music! In 2019 Kids Commute won a Bronze Award in the Best Children/Young Adult Program category of the New York Festivals Radio Awards, which honors radio content from around the world.

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