New children’s opera Three Feathers: “magic naturally lends itself to rhyming spells”

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Dana, Lori, and a very tall Frog King

I wrote about the new children’s opera, Three Feathers, a week or two ago here. Since then, the collaboration of composer Lori Laitman and librettist (and friend) Dana Gioia made its world premiere on October 17 at the new Moss Arts Center in Blacksburg, Virginia. I haven’t been able to find an actual review online, but I did find an October 14 article in The Huffington Post here. An excerpt:

“‘We wanted to have a strong story that appealed to both kids and adults,’ Mr. Gioia explains in an email: ‘There’s nothing better than Grimm’s Fairy Tales for compelling plots and memorable characters that quietly speak to our deepest fears, fantasies, and desires. At the heart of Grimm’s best tales is a young person’s quest to find love and meaning in a world that seems scary and chaotic. Lori and I chose The Three Feathers because it was a great story that almost no one in America knew. Disney or Broadway had never touched it…And who can resist an underground world ruled by a giant Frog King?’

“Lori Laitman adds, ‘There’s also an upperworld with three princesses: Dora, the heroine, sings a soul-searching aria, ‘Just Once,’ and there’s an aria for the shopaholic Gilda and one for the athletic, bossy Tilda. While there are similarities in the lyrics for these princesses, I wanted to create distinct character differences in the music so each one had her own motif. When they return you can instantly tell which princess it is because of what’s happening in the orchestra.’

“‘Also, since there are three children’s choruses,’ Ms. Laitman says, ‘we wanted to have bats, rats, and frogs, the denizens of the underworld. The opera has a very large cast, and all the kids sing except for a few supernumeraries. Here’s where my prior experience was helpful, because I’d written the oratorio Vedem for a boys choir. And when you’re constructing musical lines for children you have to keep in mind that their ranges are different [from adults], and you have to create music they can learn that is instantly memorable to them.’

“Given the whimsical tone of the text, Dana Gioia chose to write all the songs and choruses in rhyme. ‘That’s what kids want, and so do adults, even if they won’t admit it. Our opera needed to be both fun and at times mysterious. Comic opera needs rhymes and magic naturally lends itself to rhyming spells. Oddly, writing a rhyming libretto nowadays is slightly avant-garde. Most of the new libretti I see are in free verse.'”


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