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Opera Season Full Of Fun ... And Pirates

Opera performers
Midwest Institute of Opera
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The Midwest Institute of Opera wants to make the genre accessible to all audiences.

The Midwest Institute of Opera is gearing up for the 2018 season with pirates on the prowl and the love lessons of a poet.

Opening July 22 and running through Aug. 5, the season takes place in the Illinois State University Center for the Performing Arts and features Gilbert and Sullivan's "The Pirates of Penzance” and Offenbach’s “The Tales of Hoffman,” which will be sung in the original French with English supertitles.

Established in 2011, the Midwest Institute of Opera (MIO) provides professional performing opportunities for emerging opera artists. Currently the only opera company in central Illinois, MIO is run by John and Tracy Koch, who are experienced performers, as well as teachers. In selecting the operas for this summer, Tracy Koch said that they had one thing in mind: Fun!

John and Tracy Koch
Credit Laura Kennedy / WGLT
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WGLT
John and Tracy Koch are the founders of MIO.

“With 'Pirates of Penzance,' everybody loves a love story and adventure story, with lots of comedic elements thrown in. I think we can all identify with the silliness of the pirates. We’re going to have a traditional setting, with some modern-day twists to make it approachable for modern-day audiences.”

That twist includes styling the pirate king after the character of Jack Sparrow.

“The Tales of Hoffman” has an approachable storyline of life and love, but the material provides a great challenge to the singers, said John Koch.

“We were challenged in the casting of the character of Hoffman. It’s a dramatic tenor role. As it turned out, there weren’t any young people who were ready to approach to role.  So, my best friend, Tod Kowalis, stepped in. He has a great voice. It’ll be neat because he’s a mature singer and our younger people will get to see him work. It’ll be a great learning lesson for them.”

One of the most popular offerings from MIO is the MIOperatunties program, which aims to provide young people of Bloomington-Normal community youth the opportunity to attend an opera. This year the performance features highlights from “Pirates," and is Monday, July 30, at 11 a.m. It’s free for children, senior citizens, persons with special needs and families who cannot afford to normally go to a performance.

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GLT's full interview where you can hear about the unique way you can support MIO.

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Reporter, content producer and former All Things Considered host, Laura Kennedy is a native of the Midwest who occasionally affects an English accent just for the heck of it. Related to two U.S. presidents, Kennedy appalled her family by going into show business.