Praised Be Potato. ‘Potato Opera’ in the Works

Praised Be Potato. ‘Potato Opera’ in the Works
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12-04-2013 A+ A-
More than just the status of European Capital of Culture, year 2014 will bring to Riga many events to affirm not only the high potential for cultural life in Riga and Latvia, but also introduce attempts of the cultural organizers to speak simply and wittily of everyday things to their audience. In this case, the thematic line of ‘Survival Kit’ will honor the peasant, our good, old dinner companion – the potato. It will be grown, observed, learned more about, described and even have a colorful opera dedicated to it.

‘As producer Inese Beķere revealed in conversation with cultural portal 'Riga 2014’, the project ‘Potato Opera’ will consist of three formal parts – the first is opera, dedicated to potato, which will be staged in the National Theatre, and the two other parts will be an open project of potato farming and a website ‘www.kartupelis.lv’ where the process of the making of the opera will be reflected and historic and popular science stories about potato will feature along with the individual potato (growing) diaries.’

‘The fact that the snow is so resilient this year does not mean that any of our processes have stopped. The work of potato selection in the hot-houses stops neither for winter nor – spring. These potatoes will be special as they will be cultivated not in the furrows, but in flowerpots. Therefore, a sort has to be made, which is suitable for such and experiment,’ explains Inese, as a professional, managing the Girls’ Quire of   Riga Dome Quire School. For the year, preceding one of European Capital of Culture, she has decided to involve the quire girls in her potato farming project. The schoolchildren of Aloja civil municipality will also be connected to the pilot project, since Aloja was where the idea to create ‘Potato Opera’ was born.

Once, following the visit of the Singing festival of Aloja municipality, the Dome Quire School girls received a present – children’s book about potato, published by ‘Aloja Starkelsen’ Ltd. in 2005, telling the story of potato’s arrival to Europe, conditions of growing and all its many uses. Having read the book, the conductor of the quire Aira Birziņa immediately had thought that it had a children’s opera in it. Thus, the idea created collectively with the project manager of ‘Aloja Starkelsen’ Ltd. Andrejs Hansons began to transform into opera, the producer of the projects recalls the stages of its formation. All the team was left to do after that was to take action. So poetess Inese Zandere and composer Valts Pūce were addressed, and, now, the libretto of ‘Potato Opera’ is advancing rapidly, and soon the work will be begun on joyful and catching melodies of the new children’s opera. 

The Forefather of potatoes, Ms Starch and Mister Jelly – a whole potato family complete with their cousins Crisps – those are only few of the roles to be interpreted by Latvian artists of theatre and music. The premier of the opera will be the summit event of the project, which will conclude in autumn 2014. 

Meanwhile, the main character of this story – potato is cared for and tended in Aloja, which will offer a new potato sort to the project and its participants will be able to grow their potatoes in gardens or even in flower pots as highly cultivated and agriculturally purified vegetables.

January 1, 2014 will be the date when the website ‘www.kartupelis.lv’ dedicated to potato will be launched, which will foresee a site for every individual potato farmer’s diary – for their potato profile to be registered, potato diary – to be kept, the pictures – posted and for the colleagues in experiment to be informed of each farmers’ success in the field in all other conceivable ways. The website will present a lot of new information on how potato had found itself in Europe and, later, even on the dinner tables of the kings, and, alternately, became the staple food we all know. The potato farming secrets will be told there by agricultural specialists and breeders; the site will not be short of advise on the uses of potato and feature games, quizzes, traditional recipes and suggestions for unusual experiments, also introducing some aspects of production of potato snacks – chips and crisps – on the way.

Inese Beķere underlines that the website will be one of the pages, which parents will be able to safely allow their children to use: ‘The site will be entertaining, educative, interactive, and pedagogical at once. We have to teach our children culture of the virtual environment as well, and ‘kartupelis.lv’ will be a good start in that respect – your potato profile will train you to have manners on Internet.’

The project is planned to conclude in autumn 2014 – in the period of harvest. The potatoes grown in flowerpots, and their diaries, will be assessed, the laureates awarded and the hero of the project potato – celebrated. The harvest time will coincide with the premiere of ‘Potato Opera,’ to be accompanied by a new publication of the book, which inspired it, and a work-book for children, as well as release of the CD of the opera.

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