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“Suor Angelica” rehearsalSoprano Erin Armstrong rehearses the Puccini tragedy “Suor Angelica” with students of the Walkerville Centre for Creative Arts.

Music grad on mission to share opera with young audience

Breastplates and horned helmets may have given opera a bad rap, but Erin Armstrong is on a mission to change that. The 2007 UWindsor music graduate is bringing opera to the people and she’s starting with high school students at Walkerville Secondary School’s Centre for Creative Arts.

Armstrong, an opera singer and music teacher, will be performing Giacomo Puccini’s tragic one-act opera Suor Angelica on April 5 at the school, supported by a cast of Walkerville students, the University of Windsor Chamber Choir and mezzo-soprano Amelia Daigle (BMus 2012).

“It just so happens that the Walkerville students are studying classical music this semester so it’s a perfect fit,” Armstrong says. “I think it’s pretty well-known that musicals that kids participate in at school become their favourites and I had done Suor Angelica before so I knew the part very well.”

Armstrong returned to Windsor following a singing career that took her across Canada. She established Music Moves Kids, a choir camp for area children ages 5 through 16 with partner Christine Turingia in 2010. Among their public performances, the kids have been heard at the Pelee Island Winery and Harvest Festival and have been onstage at the Bank Theatre and the Sun Parlour Theatre in Leamington.

Armstrong says her current mission is to preserve opera as a viable art form in an era when its core supporters are an aging audience.

“Opera has always relied on huge public donations, but in order to keep it alive it has to change and evolve and draw a new generation of supporters who love it as a cultural treasure,” she says.

The 45-minute production tells the story of Sister Angelica, a young woman from a wealthy and prominent family who has been placed in a convent by her disapproving family following an illegitimate pregnancy. Drama and tragedy ensue–of course–but readers will have to purchase tickets to the April 5, 7:30 p.m. performance to find out how it ends. Tickets are available through Susan McKee in the School of Music, smckee@uwindsor.ca.