Opera in Rock Island

| By Karen Larsen |

Rock Island Elementary School is nestled in a valley under the high rocky east bank of the Columbia River. It is surrounded by a semi-rural residential neighborhood, which includes many small orchards and pasture lands.

On March 26, this peaceful, rural setting was transformed into an opera theater for the 300 children of the school.

It was the day of the 11th annual visit of NOISE (Northwest Opera In Schools, Etcetera) to the school. NOISE is a Seattle-based nonprofit organization which brings live opera performances to elementary audiences. This year’s production was “The Shaving Scene” from the “Barber of Seville” by Rossini.

Children sat cross legged on their gym floor as the comic scene of love and playful deception was acted out in full costume before them. They were brought to laughter at times, but their attention spans never had any reason to leave the colorful and fast-paced action on stage. When the opera was over, they gave the performers a heartfelt round of applause.

Wilfred and Kathy Woods receive a packet of thank you letters from Rock Island Elementary fifth graders. For many years, the Woods family has helped to bring Northwest Opera In Schools, Etcetera (NOISE) to the school. The Woods’ granddaughter Alyssa is in the center. (Karen Larsen photo)

Wilfred and Kathy Woods receive a packet of thank you letters from Rock Island Elementary fifth graders. For many years, the Woods family has helped to bring Northwest Opera In Schools, Etcetera (NOISE) to the school. The Woods’ granddaughter Alyssa is in the center. (Karen Larsen photo)

The cost of each year’s performance is funded equally by Wilfred and Kathy Woods and by ASB funds. Wilfred and Kathy were present to hear the performance, along with their 11-year-old granddaughter Alyssa. Before the performance began, school principal Sue Kane presented them with a stack of thank you letters written by fifth graders, who have heard five performances sponsored by the Woods family.

Also present at the performance was Lisa Bergman, executive director and founding member of NOISE. Bergman has roots in this area. She was the executive director of the Icicle Creek Center for the Arts from 2005-2010 and served as a classical music host on KOHO radio. As a pianist, she performed regularly at Bach Fest in Chelan and at the Performing Arts Center in Wenatchee.
Bergman said that she is adamant that NOISE makes it to Chelan and Douglas counties once each year.

Following the performance, students had the chance to ask questions. One student asked, “How do you sing really fast?” The answer was perhaps not surprising: “Practice, practice, practice,” said Michael Dunlap, who played Don Basilio. Dunlap then asked how many students were learning an instrument and quite a few raised their hands. He encouraged them to stick with it.
NOISE also visited Vale Elementary in Cashmere and Sunnyslope Elementary in Wenatchee on the same day.