June 15, 2003

The world of children's opera  

The Chicago Opera Theatre's production of Brundibar was good, although I have to say that the Indianapolis Children's Choir was able to muster just as much talent and heart from within their own ranks. Also, I think it was a little strange to double bill it with Martinu's Comedy on the Bridge, which isn't really a children's story at all. Sendak's sets for Brundibar were very characteristic, and they fit much better than those for Comedy, which seemed very out of place to me.

It turns out this was the last production to take place at the Atheneum here in Chicago - it turns out the COT will be moving downtown to the new Music and Dance Theatre in Millenium Park. The Atheneum is a nice little space though... I have to wonder who will be taking up there next year.

By the way, I didn't mean to suggest that Brundibar was the only Children's opera out there, just that it was the only one with which I was familiar before we set out to do Trio. And even that was untrue - I forgot about Mr Marimba, the Polish opera by Marta Ptazinska, who gave us a lot of wonderful advice about our project.

The other interesting production running now - which unfortunately I'll be unable to make - is Rachel Portman's version of The Little Prince at the Houston Grand Opera. They've actually imported a star treble/boy soprano from Milwalukee to play the part, and the reviews I've read made the music sound very accessible. Personally I was amused to hear about the production because originally, when we set out to do Trio, we wanted to write an opera on The Little Prince. My friend is very attached to the story, and he was devastated when our quest to get the copyrights dead-ended with some washed-up American composer who had always wanted to do a version but just never got around to it. In any case, Rachel Portman's version was apparently written before the rights were obtained, for performace in London (which I guess is a different set of rights than you need for the US), but when the producers in London declined to produce it, the opera ended up over here. I suppose the composer who had the American rights was paid off, but it probably wasn't civil - after all, Rachel Portman is big stuff, and there are big guns behind this production (opera houses across the country are already lined up). My friend was pretty crestfallen to read this, but I don't really care - even then I thought The Little Prince would make a lousy opera, and building our own story from the ground up was a lot of fun.


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