For those of you just joining us here at Tenor Dad, I should inform you before we begin that I am not talking about my daughter seeing her first opera. No, avid readers will recall that her first opera that she ever saw was Gianni Schicchi at the age of 4. Therefore, I cannot be writing about that experience, since it is not Throwback Thursday. It isn’t even Flashback Friday or Wayback Wednesday. No, it is More-Recent Monday, and so I am going to tell you about this past weekend, and my daughter performing in her first opera.
The opera Brundibar was not written in a concentration camp, but that’s where it was first performed when the score was smuggled in by the composer on his way to a tragic death. The story, about beating back a bully, speaks to the time and place it was written, but the message itself is timeless. And in fact, of all the groups of powerless people in history, under the heel of uncaring tyrants, perhaps none have been so constantly oppressed as children. Author Maurice Sendak recognized that when he adapted the story for one of his books, and clearly Krása and Hoffmeister knew it very well when they wrote the opera. And so the opera is the story of children.
When you have singing children in opera, generally you have adults play the children anyway. Young boy? Put some pants on a mezzo! But in this opera, all of the children’s roles were actually written for children. And at the end (spoiler alert!) all of the children of the town unite to take down the mean and nasty Brundibar. So they needed a lot of kids to sing. My daughter was one of those kids.
The title role is an adult, and so they did have an adult play that part. Leaping onto the stage with gleeful spite and wicked verve was the incredible James Kochalka, who nearly crackled with electricity every time he appeared on stage to shout at everyone in a most entertaining manner. And there were a few other adults on stage as well, to be sure, but for the most part this show was for and about the children. Zoe Hecht and Nathan Brown did a splendid job portraying the innocence and sadness of the two main characters, children from the country who had traveled to the city for the first time to find help for their ailing mother. And the talking animals that help them were also great. Maxwell Lorber-Lew as the dog was, simply put, hilarious, and my mother sitting next to me couldn’t stop cracking up any time he bounded onto the stage to say or do anything. And Taegen Yardley as the sparrow and Emily Friedrichsen as the cat filled out the animal trio to delightful effect.
Of course the part I was waiting for was when Ruby came out at the end in the children’s chorus to sing at Brundibar, and she did very well! She seemed to know all of the words, even though she would never let me practice with her so I had been worried. She fit right in with those other kids and looked perfectly natural on stage. Uh oh. I would have thought I would have personally been a fine object lesson to dissuade anyone interested in a career in the arts. Well, there is still hope. We are going to teach her how to code.
They said no pictures during the show, so I didn’t take any. But I didn’t count the curtain call, so here is Ruby taking her bow! Not pictured: her father swelling with pride and taking his own bow in his heart for helping to put forth such a fine and well-rounded girl into the world. See her up there? She is taking her place in it. Wow. Cool.