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Hitting a High Note

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Do you enjoy opera, but are tired of trying to translate the lyrics or listen to the high pitches? If so, the students at Childs Elementary School in Bloomington, Ind., may have the answer.

The Bravo! Bravo! Opera Company, comprising the two 6th-grade classes at Childs, staged its first production, "Friends Forever,'' this month--an opera written, directed, and performed entirely by students.

The project is the brainchild of the school's music teacher, Ava Crane, and a 6th-grade teacher, Mary Samuelson, both of whom attended a workshop on student-produced operas last summer.

Last fall, the two approached the students with the idea and got an enthusiastic response, Ms. Crane says.

Every production task was carried out by the 45 students. Auditions were held for 12 actors, while the remaining students filled out applications to be composers, set and costume designers, carpenters, electricians, musicians, and even public-relations workers.

The teachers acted only as overseers, Ms. Crane says, which left the students with total creative control.

"Friends Forever'' is about the mystery of friendship--the processes through which children make, lose, and then regain close friends.

Once the story was written, eight students worked out a set of lyrics. Next, the composers set the words to music, described by one of the actresses as "regular music,'' not "opera music.''

The students mixed and matched their own wardrobes to create the costumes. And although there was no charge to see the performance, the company took up donations to build footlights, a lighting-control board, and other production needs.

After playing to sold-out audiences, "Friends Forever'' is slated for performances at other area schools.--R.J.

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