February 1, 2013

Colin Beaton and Hunter Parkhill are incredible “brats,” and their parents could not be prouder.

Hunter Parkhill (left) and Colin Beaton on the set of Albert Herring. Meadows Opera Theatre will present the comic opera February 7-10 in the Bob Hope Theatre at SMU.

Colin, 13, the son of Julia ’84 and Ross Beaton, and Hunter, 13, the son of Karen ’87 and Jeff Parkhill, will take turns playing the role of the mischievous Harry, described as the “village brat,” in the opera Albert Herring by Benjamin Britten. SMU’s Meadows Opera Theatre will present the comedic masterpiece February 7-10 as an official participant in the “Britten 100” international celebration of the centenary of the renowned composer.


“Albert Herring is an absolute joy and definitely a crowd-pleaser, a perfect opera for a first-timer because it’s full of crazy characters from a small town with which we can all easily identify,” says SMU Director of Opera Hank Hammett. “It’s full of laughs and it’s in English!”

The opera holds special significance for Hammett: As a young singer, I had the privilege to work with, and subsequently become dear friends with, Eric Crozier, the librettist for Albert Herring, and his wife Nancy Evans, who created the role of Nancy. They fell in love during the writing of the opera, and you can hear that in the music Britten wrote for her character.

Although they are now passed, for years I got to hear stories and stories about the creation of Albert and how important it is to find just the right kind of young man to play Harry, as he can make or break the show,” adds Hammett. I know they would adore Colin and Hunter. They are both fantastic in the role.”

Hannah Rigg, a graduate student in voice who plays the village school teacher in the Meadows production, also sings the teens’ praises. “It’s so encouraging to see their enjoyment and enthusiasm for opera at such a young age. They’re the future of opera.”

The young vocalists were acquainted before joining the cast through participation in the Dallas Symphony Orchestra Christmas Concert for the past two years.

Albert Herring is the second opera in which Colin has performed. Last year, he appeared in Boris Gudonov with the Dallas Opera. “That was an amazing experience and has kept Colin interested in musical theatre and opera,” Julia Beaton says.

Julia, who majored in psychology and communications at SMU and covered sports for The Daily Campus, shares Colin’s love of theatre but prefers working behind the scenes. “That’s probably where I shine. Over the years, I’ve created costumes for musical productions ranging from Aida to Beauty and the Beast,” she says. “I also love painting and helped create sets for the shows.”

Her son started acting at five. “I like performing because you can be anyone you want to be, and it’s really fun to play different characters, such as Harry,” Colin says.

Hunter is also an experienced vocalist whose credits include guest soloist with the Las Colinas Symphony and singer in the Children’s Chorus of Greater Dallas. Before the Parkhills moved to Dallas in 2011, he sang with the Chicago Children’s Choir.

Karen Lynch Parkhill introduced her son to “the great works and accomplishments of Meadows graduates” several years ago at a Chicago alumni program featuring Dean José Bowen. The vice chairman and CFO of Comerica Incorporated, Karen is among the 2012 Distinguished Alumni honored by the Cox School of Business.

According to Jeff Parkhill, his son became interested in vocal performance around age seven. Hunter says he enjoys playing the boisterous Harry “because he’s so different from my personality, so it’s a challenge, but a fun challenge.”

Although college is still years away for both young men, they are already considering a future at SMU.

“Colin has expressed quite a bit of interest in becoming a Mustang, since he was about eight years old,” says Julia. “And, as we see his interests develop, we’re keeping a close eye on opportunities, like the SMU swim team, the Mustang Band and the performing arts at Meadows.”

Attending SMU as a student “would complete the circle,” says Hunter. “I’m already involved in SMU culture through tailgating with my family during football season – we have season tickets – and now the opera. This experience proves to me that Meadows offers the kind of challenge I want.”

Meadows Opera Theatre presents Albert Herring Thursday-Saturday, Feb. 7-9, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Feb. 10, at 2 p.m. in the Bob Hope Theatre in Owen Arts Center on the SMU campus. Tickets are $13 for adults, $10 for seniors, $7 for students, faculty and staff. For more information call 214.768.ARTS (2787).