Children’s opera to hold public fundraising gala tomorrow

Elijah’s Kite, an original children’s opera about bullying, will be performed at a public gala fundraiser tomorrow, Oct. 23, at 7pm in CBC’s Glenn Gould Studio in downtown Toronto.

The opera was developed through collaboration between Tapestry, the production company, and researchers in the PREVNet (Promoting Relationships & Eliminating Violence) research network, which is jointly based at York University and Queen’s University.

Left: A scene from the children’s opera Elijah’s Kite

Composed by James Rolfe and written by Camyar Chai, the participatory opera features a professional cast and a singing chorus performed by children; one child plays the role of the kite. Elijah’s Kite is set in a playground full of kids, where nine-year old Elijah feels all alone. He’s had a lot of trouble from Big Billy Brett, the school bully. Elijah brings his favourite kite to school and dreams of flying away. Elijah meets the new girl – Miriam – who’s not afraid of Billy. But her fierceness soon turns to meanness, and she becomes a bully too. By the end of the opera, the kids all learn how to turn something negative into something good, and discover that co-operation can make Elijah’s kite fly.

The opera premiered in New York City in April 2006 as part of the Manhattan School of Opera’s Outreach Triple Bill Concert for Families and Children. It made its Canadian premiere on Oct. 26, 2006 at Rideau Hall in the presence of Governor General of Canada Michaëlle Jean. Over 10,000 Ontario school children in Grades 4 to 6 experienced the opera during its 2006-2007 touring season.

Right: Elijah’s Kite, an opera for children, had its Canadian premiere on Oct. 26, 2006 at Rideau Hall in the presence of Governor General Michaëlle Jean (at the podium)

The inherent emotional core of Elijah’s Kite makes it an opportune art form in which to engage children on tough issues in a meaningful and exciting way, and each performance features an extensive outreach component.

PREVNet researchers at York and Queen’s provided bullying research to Tapestry while its members developed the opera’s libretto and score. PREVNet  also conducted a workshop for the performers to prepare them to field questions during post-performance discussion sessions, and developed an accompanying guide for classroom teachers.

“PREVNet recognizes the power of the arts to inspire social-cultural change,” says Debra Pepler, PREVNet’s scientific co-director and a distinguished research professor in York’s Department of Psychology, Faculty of Health. “We’re committed to developing new and innovative ways of bringing the findings from bullying research to the people most affected by it: children, teachers and parents.”

Funds raised through the gala will support PREVNet’s ongoing research and the Elijah’s Kite 2007-2008 Ontario School Tour, sponsored by TD Canada Trust Music. For this performance, students from the Regent Park School of Music will perform as the chorus; tickets may also be donated to allow other children from the school to attend this special performance. CBC Radio will record the opera for use in an upcoming broadcast. 

Tickets for this special performance are $95 for adults and children, available on the PREVNet Web site

PREVNet: Research for a world without bullying
PREVNet (Promoting Relationships and Eliminating Violence) is an umbrella network of 39 researchers from 21 Canadian universities across Canada, and 42 national community organizations that work with children and youth, industry and government. Its mission is to stop bullying in Canada while promoting safe and healthy relationships for all children and youth.

Launched in 2006 and jointly based at York University and Queen’s University, this national Network Centre of Excellence is the first of its kind in Canada and provides an unprecedented opportunity for social innovation and social-cultural change.  

About Tapestry
Founded in 1979 by Managing Artistic Director Wayne Strongman, Tapestry’s mission is to engage the hearts and minds of artists and audience members in the creation, development and performance of new opera works. For more information visit the Tapestry Web site.