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OXFORD MAIL Tuesday 9th Nov 2004


Performer jets in to rehearse for show


An opera singer is making weekly visits from Belgium to Oxfordshire to help schoolboys rehearse their parts for an opera in aid of the Oxford Children's Hospital Campaign.

Tinuke Olafimihan is leaving her three children with relatives to fly over at weekends to practice her part as the mother in Gian-Carlo Menotti's Amahl and the Night Visitors, which is being performed later this month at Summer Fields School, in north Oxford.

Her scenes are shared with Benji Compston, 12, who won the part of Amahl after persuading surgeons to let him out of hospital following an emergency operation for Crohn's disease.

Benji and school mate Daniel Chaplin, 11, will share the role when the opera is staged on Saturday and Sunday, November 27-28.

The opera, about a small crippled boy who meets the Three Kings on their way to see Jesus, has caused such demand that organisers are now planning a special half-price matinee performance on Sunday.

Ms Olafimihan's children Etienne, seven, and three-year-old twins Rafael and Tilly are being looked after by their grandparents while their mother prepares for her role.

She said: "This is really a performance with friends. I already know the conductor Orlando Jopling, and I used to be neighbours with director Matthias Janser.

"Because I'm leaving my children at home I am able to rehearse and catch up with them!"

The Oxford Mail revealed last month that Benji nearly missed the auditions.

He was diagnosed with Crohn's disease, which causes inflammation of the gut, three years ago, and was taken to the John Radcliffe Hospital, in Headington, for emergency surgery.

In the end, his mother Caroline took him to the auditions in his pyjamas after he persuaded surgeons to let him leave his recovery bed.

Ms Olafimihan said: "Benji and Daniel are coping terribly well with the rehearsals.

"They have picked it up very quickly."

Organisers hope the opera will raise thousands of pounds for the £15m Oxford Children's Hospital Campaign, which is funding the paediatric centre being built at the JR.