Review: Children, pros join forces in an enchanting Madeleine Festival opera
Review • Madeleine Festival presents "Shoes for the Santo Niño."
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Utah Opera returned to the Madeleine Festival of the Arts and Humanities on Sunday after a too-long absence.

It's hard to believe it has been 11 years since the opera company last appeared on the spring concert series, which is in the midst of its 25th-anniversary season. This time, the company's Resident Artists are joining forces with the Madeleine Choir School in two performances of Stephen Paulus' charming one-act opera "Shoes for the Santo Niño."

Victoria Stevens led the talented cast of children and teens as Julianita, a young girl who decides to make a gift to the Santo Niño de Atocha — a statue of the child Jesus at her church — and ends up accompanying him on an excursion to do good deeds. Stevens sang with a strong, clear voice that was refreshingly free of artifice.

Eric Stevens gave an earnest portrayal of the Santo Niño. Dozens of their classmates, impeccably trained by Madeleine Choir School music director Melanie Malinka and Utah Opera coach Carol Anderson, portrayed saints, townspeople, animals, trees and family members; the young professionals from the Utah Opera training program filled the adult roles.

Utah Symphony associate conductor Vladimir Kulenovic guided the singers and a 10-piece orchestra with an expert hand. Kathleen Clawson's staging kept the action moving. The delightful costumes, designed by Verona Green and LisaAnn DeLapp, and Kelly Nickle's whimsical props made the production a visual treat.

The Utah Opera Resident Artists — soprano Amy Owens, mezzo Sishel Claverie, tenor Andrew Penning, baritone Shea Owens and pianist Sahar Nouri — opened the program with a well-chosen selection of arias and sacred songs by Spanish and Mexican composers, accompanied by a variety of instruments.

Sunday's performance was well-attended, but the cathedral wasn't filled to capacity. The opportunity to enjoy this enchanting production, which is appropriate for all audience members mature enough to sit still for an hour and a half, shouldn't be missed.

creese@sltrib.com —

'Shoes for the Santo Niño'

Utah Opera presents a one-act opera by Stephen Paulus with libretto by Andrea Fellows Walters, based on the book by Peggy Pond Church. Choristers from the Madeleine Choir School join the Utah Opera Resident Artists, who also perform a selection of arias and sacred songs by Spanish and Mexican composers.

When • Reviewed Sunday, April 28; repeats Monday, April 29, at 8 p.m.

Where • Cathedral of the Madeleine, 331 E. South Temple, Salt Lake City.

Admission • Free.

Running time • About 100 minutes, including intermission.