Kaylie Turner as the princess in Ravel’s “l’enfant et les sortilèges” during Ojai Youth Opera’s French Masters Summer Opera Workshop 2015

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An opera performed by kids about how technology impacts our daily lives and decision-making? That’s precisely what’s on stage this weekend at Ojai Youth Opera.

The company was founded in 2012 by Rebecca Comerford. The goal was to help introduce young people to the art form, but more importantly, to give them an opportunity to star in operatic productions.

Twenty Ojai Youth Opera company members, ages 7-18, will do just that this weekend at the world premiere of Nightingale and the Tower, a new opera co-composed by Jason treating, Mikael Jorgensen, and Rebecca Comerford, who tells me, the story centers on 10-year-old Teo, a paraplegic boy who discovers a nightingale that had been born with a broken wing.

“He takes the bird into the deepest part of the forest where he encounters this tower, which is a giant supercomputer that houses all information and technology since the beginning of time. It’s ruled by this empress who is also immortal—she’s been there for a long time. She tells him, ‘I can heal your bird. I can heal you too.’ But there’s something about her that he just doesn’t trust. He says, ‘My mother tells me I’m not supposed to trust people like you.’ So, the opera unfolds from there. He has to make a choice to trust her, to embrace the technology, to see what lies inside the tower whether or not he wants to actually take that risk to follow the instructions of the empress.”

Taryn Lakes and R Kyra Maal King in Ravel’s “l’enfant et les sortilèges” during Ojai Youth Opera’s French Masters Summer Opera Workshop 2015

And therein lies the drama of this opera, says Rebecca Comerford.

“Some of the inspiration behind the storytelling was how we are navigating this new world of technology with our children. I have a daughter who is nine and a son who is three and it’s this all-pervasive force in all of our lives when it comes to how dependent we are on it for social media, for entertainment, for work, for all these various elements in our lives. We don’t really know how it’s affecting us right now. We’re living with technology in a place where we haven’t really had the time to study the effects of what it does to us. We wanted to create something that provoked these questions of how aware do we need to be and how much can we embrace it? Because it can also be this amazing tool for unlocking so much creativity and potential. Especially with children, there’s that fine line between it being a tool and versus it being a distraction or something else.”

Nightingale and the Tower will receive its world premiere this weekend at Ojai Youth Opera. Performances take place in Ojai’s Libbey Bowl Saturday and Sunday nights at 8PM. For more information, visit ojaiyouthopera.org.

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