productions: Romeo & Juliet

Romeo and Juliet, April 2006

Natasha's Story

Hello, my name is Natasha Gatopoulos and I'm sixteen years old.

I went to Buchanan Park School for 3 years and I think it's an amazing school to go to. One reason I liked the school is because Mrs. Martens did operas and that made the school different than others and all the kids had fun. When I was in the operas I was in the choir. The staff that helped Mrs. Martens was awesome.

But then when I was 15 years old I got cancer. I had Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma Cancer in my neck. I have been going to McMaster's Children's Hospital for a year now and if I had had cancer when I was in Buchanan Park School I know for a fact all the staff would support me because they do now and I don't even go there.

My family had to go through this and pray for me to get healthy again. They came to the hospital when I had to go for IV's and spent the night or even more than one night. They had to make sure I didn't get sick and make sure my blood counts didn't get too low, because then I was in danger of getting an uncontrollable fever, or worse. There are so many things I had to do just to stay alive. My family was often in tears and it damaged them until they knew I was getting better. It doesn't just hurt the person who has it but it hurts the whole family physically and emotionally really bad. They had to see me go through 3 surgeries.

The staff at McMaster's Children's Hospital is the best, I think. They try to make your comfortable to ask questions and they also would come and just sit and talk if you got sad. They would always be so nice and try to make you happy. They helped my family cope with my disease and taught my family how to take of me. I think they are the best staff people in the world I couldn't thank them enough, that's how good they are.

I would like to see the money go to McMaster's Children's Hospital because you don't know how much your helping these kids like me and even adults. So please keep donating the money to McMaster's Children's Hospital. Your donations helped save my life. Your future donations might help save the life of someone you love.

Sincerely, Natasha Gatopoulos

P.S- Just remember you're saving kids' lives when you donate money to McMaster's Children's Hospital. The kids need it.


Opera goes to the Dogs
by Suzanne Bourret (Hamilton Spectator)

Calvin got stage fright, but other than that, the Buchanan Park Opera Club opening performances of Romeo and Juliette, Saturday afternoon and evening, were flawless.

The elegant rescue greyhound, a retired racer, had an appearance as the prince's dog along with Charlie, a toy poodle, who appeared as Juliette's dog. But Calvin got spooked, Saturday afternoon after he banged his teeth against stair risers. He reluctantly made it to the stage,

says his owner, Julia Page, cast as Juliette, and had to be rerouted. He was a no-show at Saturday night's performance.

More than 1,000 people attended five performances of the 12th annual opera, which ended Tuesday evening. It was performed by 230 students in the gymnasium of Buchanan Park School on Hamilton's west Mountain.

The opera club has raised $22,282 for children's cancer research at McMaster's Children's Hospital, says Dawn Martens, the vivacious artistic director, who has been producing it for 12 years.

This year, conductor David Fawcett was the inspiration for the club's first performance of Shakespeare. The composer and former opera singer with the Canadian Opera Company spiced up the production with his adaptation of Charles Gounod's music. There was a mix of Shakespearean language, Renaissance music, violinists and staging and even a bit of Monty Python.

The stars, of course, are the children, aged six to 12, who do an amazing job as stage crew, prop movers, actors, singers and dancers. Others help with the sound board, curtains and lighting.

Julia,11, says she learned a few things in her part as Juliette. "When I was dying I had to feel like I was really dying. I had to think of something sad in my personal life. And I had to think it was the worst decision in my life when I was killing myself."

The birds were exuberant and the duellers and feuders were suitably fierce and angry. The creative and colourful costumes, including silk coats, tunics and courtesan outfits, were designed by parents and opera club teachers.

They scoured thrift shops, shopped at the Stratford Shakespearean Festival's garage sale and mixed and matched from the trunks of Opera Hamilton. One Masonic Lodge jacket emerged and almost every old bridesmaid gown.

"What's important to me are the little victories I see in students, especially shy, uninvolved children," says Martens, who has a long list of credits in her artist's profile.

Everyone except senior and junior kindergarten students is slotted into the production. You see not only the Romeos and Juliettes, but the shy children who are given a chance to shine as chorus singers or dancers, she says. "To see them succeed is exciting. You don't expect that (to feel it) every year, but it gets me every year," she said with her hand over her heart.

Fawcett takes a global view of the club productions. "It's a music education project. We are teaching children there is more to music than getting it out of ear buds. There are different kinds of worthwhile music and making music is infinitely more interesting than listening to it."

But there's always fun. After the sombre funeral procession at the end, things lightened up as the audience clapped and cheered when students, taking their cast calls, and Fawcett and Martens danced to Michael Buble's Crazy Little Thing Called Love.

"My granddaughter (Michelle Best playing Gertrude the nurse) is in it. It's great," said Ted Kocznur, who was watching Monday morning's performance with his wife, Carol.

Special guests included opera singer John Fanning, who performed in a dragon's costume with tap dancer extraordinaire, Brodie Campbell. Others were politicians David Christopherson and Judy Marsales; Peter Oleskevich, assistant conductor of Opera Hamilton; opera educator Iain Scott; and Opera Ontario staff and Opera Hamilton board of directors' members.

A Message from Ms. Judy Marsales (Hamilton West).


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