Vermillion: The opera capital of South Dakota Camp Opera participants prepare to perform â�?�?Magic Fluteâ�?�? By Patrick Morrison
Yankton Media, Inc. To many, Vermillion is known as the home of the University of South Dakota; but to Camp Opera volunteer Merle Eintracht, it's the opera capital of South Dakota. "I personally like to joke and call Vermillion the Opera Capital of South Dakota because I don't know if South Dakota has any other alliance with any form of opera," Eintracht said. Now in her first year as the movement instructor for Camp Opera, Eintracht said she became active in the program after she met Camp Opera Director Scott Piper. Piper, who is a professional operatic singer, provided the inspiration necessary for her to leave her home in Arizona for the month of June and volunteer at Camp Opera, Eintracht said. "Scott Piper's embracing in the most enthusiastic way the whole art of opera fits into my background of children's theater," she said. "I am just so devoted to the work that he does." Piper, who recently returned from performing in Israel, said the second year of Camp Opera is shaping up to surpass last year's program in several ways. "We have seen an increase in the number of programs, the number of participants and the number of participants involved in more than one area," Piper said. "We added photography, hip-hop dancing, visual arts and others. It's not just about operatic arts; it's about all of the arts." Piper said that in addition to having quality programs, Camp Opera has quality instructors. "I'm bringing in people who are artists and professionals in their field. These are people who live this, who live their art forms," he said. In addition to adding new programs and instructors, Piper said this year's program will conclude with a production of Mozart's "Magic Flute" on Monday, June 29 at 7 p.m. at the United Church of Christ-Congregational in Vermillion. "Magic Flute" is one of Mozart's most famous operas and has a wide appeal to audiences of all ages, Piper said. "This production has fairies and all sorts of magical creatures that will entertain the children and the plot is developed enough to interest adults," Piper said. Paige Keck, a Vermillion resident who teaches drawing lessons through her company "Ready, Set, Draw!," said she became involved with Camp Opera in order to make the program a more well-rounded art day. "One of the main benefits of Camp Opera is to give children an opportunity to experience art in many different forms, and this is one way to accomplish that," Keck said. Keck said she teaches a wide variety of visual arts to Camp Opera participants, including costume design and set design that will be used in the "Magic Flute" production. In addition to technical arts, Keck said Camp Opera's goal is to let students explore their own idea of art. "We want to get the children in touch with their own experiences, like music-inspired pastels," she said. "It's not the step-by-step prescriptive method; it's really more individualized and tailored to their experiences and interests." Vermillion resident Kathy LaPlante enrolled her four-year-old daughter in Camp Opera partly for that reason. "This truly inspires her to be imaginative and creative," LaPlante said. In her movement program, Eintracht said she has been working to tailor her classes to match up with the abilities of each age group. "The hard part is to find music and programs that work for all of the age groups," Eintracht said. "If you look at the developmental scale, children of a certain age are able to control their bodies in specific ways." Eintracht said she devoted the first week to teaching the older participants social dances, such as the Macarena and the hanky panky. The second week was devoted to preparing students for the "Magic Flute," which Eintracht said is a key part of the Camp Opera experience. "What Scott Piper has done is to bring an amazing art form to Vermillion," she said. "The little children will say, when they're 25, that they were in Mozart's 'Magic Flute' when they were five. It gives these children a new context of what the arts are all about." Marie Dahlhoff, who enrolled her five children in Camp Opera, said both her and her children have enjoyed the program. "The first day our oldest one wasn't sure about it, but now they come home everyday and can't wait to come back," Dahlhoff said. "I think having the opportunity for the kids to see how an opera is put together and all that goes into it is really amazing." Eintracht said she has been amazed by the enthusiasm of both the parents and the students. "What has stunned me about my group is how fast they have connected with me, connected with the music and connected with the movements," she said. "Most importantly, they are having the best fun, and that's what it's all about." As Camp Opera draws to a close, Piper said he is already making plans for next year's program. "For those kids who are interested in costume design, we may offer a class just on sewing and design," Piper said. "This program is structured to grow with the community. True creativity is not about throwing stuff together in a bucket, but being able to see an end goal."
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