An Original Opera Debuts at Trevose Day School and Neshaminy Montessori!

With awe-inspiring arias and captivating storytelling, the talented performers of Trevose Day School and Neshaminy Montessori have come together to create a magical musical experience.

On June 1st and 2nd, our students debuted “Desire For Light,” an original opera by our Musical Director, award-winning composer and pianist Charis Bean Duke. Working together to act, dance, sing and create beautiful backdrops, our students and staff have crafted a heartwarming spectacle that showcases their creativity and the power of the human spirit.

“Opera is such a wonderful way for students to express and learn language because it is literature that comes to life,” says Head of School Gwynne Frischmann. “It helps children learn about setting, character development, and plot all through a wonderful musical adventure. It is so important to have the arts be an integral part of our curriculum.”

“Desire for Light” is an inspirational story from the Mackenzie Delta Eskimo people of Northern Alaska. This opera was commissioned by the Arts Academy of Bella Vista in Clovis, NM and created specifically for our arts curriculum.

In “Desire for Light,” the curtain rises on a lonely boy who lives with his mother and is mocked and shunned by the other villagers. Despite being an outcast, he is convinced the spirits have great things in store for him. While visiting a dance hall in a nearby village, a kind Shaman reveals the boy’s own Shaman power to summon seals, fish, and caribou. He returns to his own village to share his talents and earn the respect and reverence of his peers.

 “The challenge is always to present the story in a concise fashion — folk tales generally need a lot of editing,” says Duke, whose music has been performed by numerous ensembles including the Jezic Ensemble of Baltimore, the Amadeus Choir of Toronto, the Boston Viola Quartet, and the Cincinnati Camerata. “However, the triumph is when I go into rehearsal after it’s composed and find that the children enjoy singing it.

Auditions were held throughout the 1st to 5th grades to find our best singers, dancers, and most dedicated leaders. Vocal solos were given to four students, several received a special dance number, and three students were asked to lead our youngest classes. Everyone else was assigned to a group based on the difficulty of the role. All of the students are so excited to be a part of this unique opportunity!

The entire Trevose Day School and Neshaminy Montessori community has contributed their efforts and talents to making this production a success, beginning work on this wonderful endeavor at the beginning of April. The art department worked hand in hand with the students to create backdrops and scenery. Costumes were hand made by generous parent volunteers and a former staff member. Teachers make sure the scenes flow seamlessly as stage managers. Classroom assistants helped wrangle our students backstage.

It is so wonderful to see the entire school working together!

Our performances will be held on June 1st with shows at 10:00AM and 1:30PM. We will also have a performance on  June 2nd at 1:30PM. Tickets are $10 per person.

Duke has received numerous honors and awards, most notably the Nancy van de Vate International Prize for Opera from Vienna Masterworks. She is a four-time winner of the International Christmas Carol and Chanukah song writing competition, and received the Cincinnati Camerata Prize for choral music.  She is currently working on a musical about the Great Fire of London.

For a peek at Duke’s deft composition skills, view these inspirational lyrics from “Desire for Light:”

I visited a village, a village filled with light
And there a kindly Shaman taught me what is right.

So now I know my calling. I know what I can be.

I finally understand my soul’s true destiny.