Kid-friendly culture: JOT spins opera for children with a little fairytale magic
by Erin Williams
Special to The Star
Jan 19, 2014 | 966 views |  0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Kids of all ages will have a ‘ribbit’-ing time at the JSU Opera Theatre’s latest staged production, “The Frog Prince.” The plot is one of complex simplicity: A prince who has been cursed to be a frog has a chance at a normal life if he can wrangle the affections — and the lips — of a certain princess to make him human again. Throw in three sisters, a debutante ball and a bit of conniving and angst, and the opera becomes a classic case of sibling rivalry.

“I am angry because he’s going to slime up the place and my guests might fall, and I won’t get my prince and my happy ending,” says Emma Jensen, who plays Princess Antoinette, the prim and proper sister of the main character, Princess Alaina, played by Debra Matua. Antoinette and her sister, Princess Augusta, are charged with indoctrinating Alaina in the ways of society. But the task proves perilous once she drops her magic ball into a well.

“I’m actually one of the evil characters because I’m plotting against my own sister, trying to get her basically in trouble and to get this frog out of the castle because he’s going to make my life horrible,” says Jensen, a freshman soprano studying music education.

The production falls perfectly in line with General Director Nathan Wight’s vision for JOT, now in its 10th season.

"Our tagline, ‘Exploring artistic interpretation through operatic performance,’ is still our guiding mantra," Wight said. "We have come a long way from our first show done on a $200 budget for about 200 patrons. We have received two National Opera Association Awards, performed in many venues from Tuscaloosa, Gadsden, Jacksonville, Washington D.C., and even have an invitation from the Kennedy Center. If we can do all of this in 10 years, who knows what the future holds?”

Jensen previously performed with the JOT chorus when she was selected for the apprenticeship program in high school, but this production marks her first as a JSU student. The children’s production, which runs Jan. 30-31, is right up her alley, as she hopes to one day influence younger generations who want to follow in her footsteps.

“You’re molding that person. You’re helping them become who they’ll be in the future, and I love the idea of being able to help someone for the better good, to be important,” said Jensen. “If you start a child young enough, they have the opportunity to dream about something bigger than themselves.”

IF YOU GO…

What: “The Frog Prince,” children’s opera by Jacksonville Opera Theater

When: Public performances are Jan. 25 at 3 p.m. in Gadsden and Jan. 31 at 7:30 p.m. in Oxford. School performances are Jan. 24 in Gadsden and Jan. 30 in Oxford; both at 9:30 a.m.

Where: In Gadsden, Wallace Hall on the campus of Gadsden State Community College; in Oxford, the Performing Arts Center, 100 Choccolocco St.

Cost: $6 for students, $10 for adults

Info: 256-782-5876

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