by Kirby LindsayThe recent staging at Seattle Opera of Gioachino Rossini’s The Barber of Seville had much to recommend it, even beyond being one of the few operas with a happy ending. For one thing, it featured, in the non-singing role of Figaro’s assistant, Fremont resident and Hamilton International Middle School student Andre Alabastro.
Another opportunity exists as Andre’s sister, Roxanne Alabastro, a student at West Woodland Elementary, takes a turn as a beggar, and a flamenco dancer, in another Seattle Opera presentation - Don Quixote coming February 26th – March 12th.
The two youths speak with pleasure about their experiences performing for the opera, commercials, movies and voice-overs – and most especially as dance students at Pacific Northwest Ballet (PNB). They also seem aware that these roles hardly guarantee stardom, but have given them plenty of bright spots in their young lives.
How To Start
When asked how he got started performing, Andre pointed at his Dad. Certainly support from his father, Alan Alabastro, a professional photographer with Seattle Opera and PNB, as well as the Fremont Fair and Karin Stevens Dance, contributed. Yet, Andre also credits, or blames (depending on the moment,) his older brother Dante, who saw The Nutcraker as a young child and pursued his dream to be in it.
Andre followed Dante, and Roxanne said that she followed Andre. “I liked looking in the mirrors,” she explained about her early fascination with dance class. Today all three study dance, but a continual shortage of male dancers, Roxanne and her dad pointed out, means that the boys do get more opportunities.
Not that Roxanne sits around, waiting for the phone to ring. In addition to performing, “I like playing sports,” she said. She tried swimming but her sinuses didn’t. Track & field brought out her competitive nature, and she found second place discouraging. She now has plans to try basketball, if she can find a team with practices and games that don’t conflict with dance class.
Andre enjoys acting, and performing on his ukulele (he played at the Ballard Sunday Market last summer,) but “I would really like to be dancing,” he explained. He doesn’t expect to get rich dancing, although he might try. He also thought he might explore his interests in psychology (“I like thinking about how people think,” he said) and cooking.
“I like performing,” Roxanne acknowledged, but if she performed professionally, “I would like to do something else too. Something that makes money.” She likes social studies and debate, and “I like to prove my point,” she admitted, as her brother and father nodded their agreement.
When To Quit
Of the three kids, Alan offered, Andre currently earns the most money. Andre did share his stories from the trenches - eating Cheetos for two days for a role in a short movie, and eating cookies all day while the crew filmed a single shot. So when he landed a prime role in Barber, “I really didn’t want to do it at first,” Andre admitted. He’d become too aware that rehearsals and performances would keep him from some tryouts for summer dance programs, and dance classes.
Alan, and his wife (and the kids’ mother) Carriann Alabastro, have been asked, ‘when do you let them quit?’ According to Alan, more often they face the opposite problem. “We’ve had to insist they quit,” he explained, when activities pile up and require a choice be made. Most of the time, however, these opportunities are about, “giving them the experiences,” explained Alan, “it gives them a chance to be creative.” While the family doesn’t have a television at home, they encourage one another to go out and create television.
For now, neither Roxanne nor Andre expressed an interest in becoming opera stars. “I like listening to signing,” Roxanne volunteered, “but I don’t necessarily like singing in front of people.” Andre enjoyed picking up a few Italian words during Barber, but as for learning to sing he said he might try it later, “in my future years, when I’m sitting around with broken legs.”
They do recommend others follow the path they’ve taken, through the support of their parents. “I would encourage other kids to get the experience of opera, and definitely dance,” Roxanne said, “I like being on stage, and having the spotlight.” Andre also encourages others, with his caveat, “as long as they don’t steal my part!”
©2011 Kirby Lindsay. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.