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Family Fun: Inland Northwest Opera brings ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ to Riverfront Park

Aug. 8, 2021 Updated Mon., Aug. 9, 2021 at 9:48 a.m.

Soprano Dawn Wolski will be performing in “Carmina Burana” at Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox on Saturday evening.  (Cori Medeiros)
Soprano Dawn Wolski will be performing in “Carmina Burana” at Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox on Saturday evening. (Cori Medeiros)
By Jordan Tolley-Turner The Spokesman-Review

Inland Northwest Opera is taking Little Red Riding Hood to Eastern Washington and North Idaho with the classic characters and story, but with a few twists.

As the tale prompts, the wolf likes the idea of eating things, but his stomach is so sensitive that even if you just talk about food, his stomach begins to ache.

It’s more of a story about him “really trying to be the big bad wolf, but he can’t be big, or bad or much of a wolf,” said Dawn Wolski, general and artistic director of Inland Northwest Opera.

The classic children’s story is presented in opera form, which Wolski describes as “just really good stories sung to music really loud.”

Inland Northwest Opera’s presentation of “Little Red Riding Hood: A Children’s Opera” consists of a cast of three local professionals known as emerging artists in the industry, according to Wolski. They are:

• Little Red Riding Hood – Karen Hunt, founder, general and artistic director of the Valkyrie Ensemble.

• Mother/grandmother – Samantha Schneider, owner of Creative Music Learning Center, a local music school.

• Wolf/Woodsman – Mickey Zhang, a recent graduate of Gonzaga’s School of Music.

And behind the cast is a set of experienced directors:

• Music director/pianist – Scott Rednour, Manhattan School of Music opera coach for 25 years.

• Stage director – Maria Caprile, longtime stage director with many companies now living in Spokane.

“We’re definitely proud to have people in our region who are professionals,” Wolski said. The team rehearsed intensely last week, and they’re more than excited to perform on such a unique stage.

Last spring, Inland Northwest Opera received a grant from the Coeur d’Alene Arts Commission to buy a 16-foot box truck, and with the help of fabricators, they were able to “completely transform the box of this moving truck into a literal moving concert hall,” Wolski said.

Once parked, the stage drops down to show a beautiful venue that once looked like just a box truck.

“This way we can do our performances in public places, like in parks, to keep our kids safe from any public health issues that might come up,” said Melody Chang, Inland Northwest Opera’s director of marketing. “It’s just all around a wonderful way to bring opera to everyone.”

“Usually in non-pandemic years, we’re able to bring this type of program to individual schools and perform in the schools directly,” Wolski said. “But through the pandemic, giving us this chance to build an opera truck, it’s really opened up our educational outreach program called ‘Opera-tunities.’

“It’s just given us this whole new venue for us to share opera with people who don’t normally get to experience that, and these kids really, really love the stories that we present. I’m just excited to share with more people.”

The opera truck made its debut with the new production Friday at the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture, and it will be in Riverfront Park today, Spirit Lake on Tuesday, Pinehurst on Wednesday, Hayden on Thursday, A.M. Cannon Park on Friday and Liberty Lake on Saturday.

“If you ever wanted to hear opera, now is your chance,” Wolski said. “We are out there, and we’re bringing opera to everyone. And if you don’t get a chance to hear opera this summer, it’s definitely not going to be our fault.”

Jordan Tolley-Turner is a high school summer intern. He begins his junior year at Shadle Park High School in the fall.

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