Dean Burry’s opera for children The Brothers Grimm had its 500th performance last night at the shiny new Ada Slaight Hall at the Daniels Spectrum in the revitalised Regent’s Park neighbourhood. It’s a work that premiered in 2001 and has been a staple of the COC Ensemble Studio School Tour ever since. It’s played an important role in developing young Canadian singers as performers as evidenced by the fact that the original cast brothers were Joseph Kaiser and David Pomeroy. 500 performances!
The piece is written for five singers and piano with the sets and props designed to pack up in the back of a van so it’s not especially elaborate but it works pretty well within those limitations. It uses a spoken dialogue and aria format and, of course, it’s in English. It’s musically quite interesting, especially the piano part, which shows no sign of being “dumbed down for kids”. The story deals with the Grimms as they realise that there may be more of a market for folk tales than dictionaries and weaves in the stories of Little Red Cap, Rapunzel and Rumpelstiltskin. It’s quite amusing and in the tradition of such things the dialogue gets updated with each run to keep the jokes fresh. All in all, I’d say it was pitched at about the right level to entertain elementary school children without condescending to them.
Last night’s cast mostly featured the newer members of the Ensemble Studio. The brothers were played by Owen McCausland and Cameron McPhail, Dortchen Wild/Little Red Cap/Rapunzel etc by Claire de Sévigné, Frau Viehmann/Witch/Wolf by Lindsay Barrett and just about everything else by Neil Craighead. Neil’s the only member of the cast I’ve seen much of so I was interested to get a look. They are all good, confident singing actors. De Sévigné is impossibly cute and bouncy and has a very pleasant toned voice. Barrett seemed to be having fun with the witch and, especially, the wolf. The wolf is much the best character! The guys were all solid. 30 or 40 performances on the road had brought the thing together nicely. Most important of all, the kids and they were legion, mostly seemed pretty enthusiastic about it.
Full credit to the composer, stage director Ashlie Corcoran and Music Director Timothy Cheung who also played the piano (the instrument, the piano isn’t a character) for making this such a success.
The photographs in this post are by Anand Maharaj and feature the 2009 cast; Laura Albino, Adam Luther, Alexander Hajek, Michael Uloth and Ileana Montalbetti
I think that’s the end of live opera going for 2012 for me. I’ve clocked 22 performances which may well be a personal record.