Not often does one find a 15-year-old boy willing to sit through 16 hours of opera. Even more rare is a boy who makes this his No. 1 wish.
But Roosevelt High School student and recent Make-A-Wish recipient Lukas Bowen is not an average teen.
He was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease in July 2012. He was then put in touch with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, an international organization that grants wishes to youths with life-threatening medical conditions.
Unlike some of the kids served by the organization, he had no trouble settling on his wish: to see a full production of Richard Wagner’s “Ring” cycle of operas at Grand Théâtre de Genève in Switzerland. The complete cycle of the four 19th-century operas is rarely performed, mainly for financial and logistical reasons (Seattle Opera stages it every four years).
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His wish was granted in May during an 11-day trip to Switzerland with his parents and his sister, compliments of the local chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation and a local donor family.
Jessie Ellenbaas, Bowen’s “Wish Manager” and an employee of Make-A-Wish for the past nine years, said Lukas’ case is the first time she’d worked on a wish involving opera.
“Opera’s kind of an adult appreciation, so anytime a child has a love for something like this, it really gets me excited because I know it’s that child’s heartfelt wish,” she said.
Bowen, a former student at Pacific Northwest Ballet School and the son of two musicians, has grown up listening to classical music. Years ago, he caught a mesmerizing glimpse of the set for the “Ring” at one of his dance rehearsals and knew he had to see it. Since then, he has seen it twice in the U. S.— once in Seattle and once in San Francisco.
“I like how … it’s art that (combines) all other parts of art,” he said. “It has a great story, it has great music and the sets were amazing.”
The awe inspired by “The Ring” has led him to a love for opera singing. He now takes lessons.
“You kind of get this exhilarating feeling when you’re singing,” he said. “You’re in tune with the character you’re singing, you’re in tune with the music that you’re singing, and you can feel the music a lot more than just listening to it.”
While he enjoyed the U.S. performances of the “Ring,” he wanted to see the Wagner cycle somewhere closer to its origins in Europe, which his mother, Denise Bowen — a musician with the PNB Orchestra — said he’d been wanting to do for years.
Finding out this longtime wish would finally be granted, he said, was thrilling, especially after he underwent a kidney transplant in June 2013.
“It really gave me something to look forward to after the transplant,” he said. “When you’re diagnosed with kidney disease, it’s just kind of getting through each day, but it helps if you can actually look forward to something and say that I’m actually getting somewhere.”
The trip has left a lasting impact on Bowen’s family members as well. His mother said the Make-A-Wish experience has led her to rethink her priorities.
“We’re frugal people, and I’m sure we will continue to be that way … but the priority of going and making a trip like that, and trying to really absorb what is offered in a particular city and spending time with our family like that, that’s what I want to do,” she said.
“And so even though it can be quite a bit of money, I want to make sure that we designate some of our funds to do that.”
Shirley Qiu: firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @callmeshirleyq