Grade five students at an elementary school in Saskatoon have written, produced and are starring in their own opera.

The musical form was introduced to them by a professional opera singer, Anastasia Winterhalt.

"Their energy was incredible," Winterhalt said of the experience working with the youngsters. "They're right at this age where life is changing a lot for them. They're on this cusp of big changes and you can see it in them and they were impassioned."

Winterhalt said she was amazed at how the students embraced the music.

"They were impassioned about something that I'm passionate about and that was unbelievable," she said.

"It was, like, the best experience ever,"  Julia Lukowich, one of the students in the production said. "I love singing and I love dancing."

Lukowich said the experience brought her classmates closer together as they worked on the show, from script to presentation, over the school year.


'Oh dang, it's singing.' —Aidan Waring, Grade Five

"We got to know each other way more than we did at the beginning of the year," she said.

Performances of their production took place Thursday at Father Robinson School in Saskatoon.

The characters and plot for the show are based on a theme familiar to youngsters - video games.

They called their opera Mastering the Game: Four Levels, Four Worlds, One Link.

Hesitant start

While the students belted out their solos, duets and chorus songs with gusto on Thursday, some of the students said they were apprehensive when the project began.

"At first I thought, 'Oh dang, it's singing,'" Aidan Waring said. "Most of the boys in our class weren't really fond of singing. Then we learned way more about opera and it wasn't just singing and it's acting also."


Grade five students at Father Robinson school in Saskatoon perform their own opera. (CBC)

"At first, I was like, 'Oh, an opera,'" Madelyn Rawlyk added. "I thought it was all Vikings and high-pitch singing, but once you get into it, its really exciting."

The project came together when Winterhalt, the opera singer, was visiting her cousin, Susan Reschny, a teacher at Father Robinson.

They learned that an arts grant could support a lesson in music, applied for funding and the rest was musical history.

Not only have the students conquered a challenging art form, but their teacher said it has given them a lesson they can take into all aspects of their lives.

Project fosters teamwork

"This opera has done things for my class that I never expected," Reschny said. "In the last three months I have noticed an incredible change in how they address education.

"First of all, they take risks, they are not afraid of making mistakes, they go for it in the areas that are most challenging for them," she said. "They feel that they are a team, they feel that they support each other, and it has gone into every aspect of their education."

The plot of the opera follows characters trapped inside a video game who encounter different levels and different worlds.

All 25 students worked on the production, from the libretto to the music to the on-stage presentation and off-stage work, such as posters, fundraising, costumes, sets and props.

At a couple of points in the show every student in the class is on stage performing.

(With files from CBC's Ryan Pilon)