It’s been a decade since 11-year-old Lindon Carter stood onstage at the McPherson Playhouse in SMUS’s first-ever Grade 5 opera, Johann Strauss II’s Die Fledermaus.
“That was a dream as a kid. I grew up watching shows at the Mac put on by Kaleidoscope Theatre – we would go on field trips to see the shows. And then being able to perform on that stage was such a great thing to do as a kid,” says Carter, a 2013 grad, now 21. “I remember, even at the time, being pretty impressed with what we ended up making. Being in Grade 5 and having (director) Duncan Frater believing in us to put on a whole opera, with the music and the orchestra, it’s amazing that he was able to make that happen.”
Mr. Duncan Frater, SMUS’s Junior and Middle School choir teacher, is marking the 10th anniversary of the first Junior School opera by restaging Die Fledermaus once again.
“We tried Die Fledermaus once before, it was successful, people still talk about that one, so I figured we could go back and do it again with a new group of kids,” Duncan says. “I love the fact that people are open to seeing us put this show on again.”
Die Fledermaus is the story of the flirtatious Eisenstein (played in 2006 by Carter), a masquerade party and a night of mistaken identities. It’s filled with wonderfully infectious waltzes and polkas, as well as music that transports you back to 19th-century Austria.
“When this program started 10 years ago, I wanted to expose the kids to this type of music. What I love about opera is the fact that the kids get to immerse themselves in classical music — and the composers of classical music who were very well trained — in a fun way,” Duncan says.
As far as he’s aware, SMUS is one of only two schools in Canada that runs an opera program for kids of this age. “The Grade 5 opera works at SMUS because we have the motivation to do it. Once you raise the bar and see that it is possible, you keep raising that bar. We trust the children, you ask them to do it, they trust you, and they just do it. They’re incredible.”
Carter, a SMUS lifer, continued with the arts during his time at the school. He performed in the Middle School productions (Willpower and The King of Elfland’s Daughter), as well as in the Senior School shows My Fair Lady, Guys and Dolls, and The Secret Garden.
Carter is now living in Edmonton and is one year away from earning his Bachelor’s of Music Composition from MacEwan University. He teaches vocals, violin, guitar and piano, and sings in a band, Carter and the Capitals. He credits his time at SMUS for his pursuit of music.
“Without a doubt, I got my start in singing and music at the Junior School, and the reason I’m here today is because of people like Duncan, Mary (Smith) and Donna (Williams),” he says. “SMUS is so different from other schools because of how many opportunities I had to try different things and do everything at the same time, not be exclusive in my interests until I decided what I was passionate about. I loved the sports, I loved being active, but there was no better feeling than when I was on stage; I’ve felt that since I was at SMUS, and I don’t think I’ll ever get bored of it.”
Duncan says he loves working with this year’s group of Grade 5 students on the opera, which runs June 2-3 at the McPherson Playhouse. And while he knows most of them likely won’t pursue the arts after graduation like Lindon did, he’s enjoying getting to see boundless enthusiasm for this project, one that really is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Adds Carter: “I bet some of them will definitely look back in 10 years, remember and be proud of the work they did, even if they are 9 or 10. I hope they have a lot of fun – that’s the main part, they should take it seriously, but know that they can have fun with their friends, and that people are going to be entertained.”