Ravel's opera casts a magical transformation

16-year-old Giselle Stone takes on the role of the boy who needs to grow up

Posted: Thursday, April 01, 2004

As if she didn't have enough to think about with her sophomore course load at Juneau-Douglas High School, 16-year-old Giselle Stone began rehearsing nightly for the lead role of the boy in "L'enfant et les Sortileges" one week after she finished starring as Dorothy in the JDHS spring musical "The Wizard of Oz."

"I was really afraid that I wouldn't be able to sustain my grades," said Stone, who has also been helping with set design for Glacier Valley Elementary's production of "The Tides and the Tempest." "I took on a lot of stuff this year. It was pretty hard for me."

"L'enfant," presented by Opera To Go and the Juneau Symphony, plays at 8 p.m. Saturday, April 3, and 3 p.m. Sunday, April 4, at the high school auditorium. Tickets are available at Hearthside Books, at the door and online at www.juneau.com/symphony. Sunday's performance will be broadcast and Webcast on KTOO-FM.

"L'enfant" is Stone's first opera. She takes voices lessons from director Joyce Parry Moore and agreed to star before she had even heard the complete score.

"The role of Dorothy was pretty low for my range," Stone said. "I had to really work on keeping my voice in the right place, so I would be prepared for those six weeks that we would be doing the opera.

"We were using a microphone in the musical and we're not using mics in the opera," she said. "So you really have to bring the sound of your voice forward more. When you're in musical theater, a lot of the music is not very complicated. It's very simple rhythms and it's telling. Most musical theater is made so you can dance and sing at the same time. Opera is very vocal."

Stone has played a boy once before, in JDHS' production of "Damn Yankees." She's taking acting classes with Bethany Bereman at the high school, and she said she drew from her character work with director Ryan Conarro in "Wizard of Oz" to help her find her physicality in "L'enfant."

"L'enfant is 8 or 9, and Dorothy was probably 12 or 13, but I think they both go through these journeys of learning morals and finding themselves," Stone said. "L'enfant is going through this transformation from being a naughty boy to being a wise adolescent male. Dorothy is a dreamy girl who wants something more than her little farm life and finds all these little traits about herself that she didn't know."

"Joyce and I were talking about the figure of the father in the opera," she said. "We were trying to think where the dad might have gone. Is he away that day? Is he on a trip? Did he actually die? Is this a single-parent situation? Is that why the mom has all this built-up anger? Maybe to fill it, he wants to be more like his father, so he's trying to act manly."

Stone said the most physically demanding scene for her is the opening tantrum. L'enfant runs around the room, kicking the chairs and pulling his cat's tail, and must sing while maintaining his breath. Later, in another difficult scene with the Princess (Joyce Parry Moore), Stone must sing while in repose - requiring her to keep her head and voice projected out to the audience.

"When we're young, we're naive to everything, and I think he's naive to the world when the opera starts," Stone said. "Through the story, the world just kind of opens up to him and he learns all of these things that he didn't know. The whole opera is about all the little emotions that you go through to become a grown-up."

• Korry Keeker can be reached at korry.keeker@juneauempire.com.

For more on 'L'enfant' see "This Week" inside section, for complete coverage of Opera to Go and the Juneau Symphony's production of Maurice Ravel and Colette's "L'enfant et les Sortileges."

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