Bard College offers a rather amazing event: two one-act operas for children this weekend. That a small college can mount an original opera production is phenomenal, but Bard has deep talent in music, vocal arts, and theatrical production. Higglety Pigglety Pop! by British composer Oliver Knussen (who has written nearly 50 classical compositions) is based upon Maurice Sendak’s book of that title, which presents the quest of a young dog to discover the “the more” about life as it follows the adventures Jeannie the terrier who leaves the luxurious home where she has “everything” to become an actress of the Mother Goose World Theatre. Mock suspense and charming parodic wit characterize both drama and music.
Knussen, who wrote his First Symphony at fifteen (conducting it with the London Symphony Orchestra), wrote a 1985 version of Higglety Pigglety Pop!, revised it in 1999 for the Glyndebourne Festival Opera production. Sendak himself collaborated with Knussen on the opera. This 60 minute opera contains 9 scenes. About this opera Knussen has said that it “is an evocation of the music I wanted to write at that age but didn’t know how. There are only a few passing references to things actually remembered, but the whole is couched in the flavor of what I used to hear in my head.” Knussesn attempts to build a “bridge” between the innocence of childhood and an adult perception of childhood.
The second one-act opera, The Magic Flute Redux, presents a children’s version of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s famous masterpiece as it reinterprets a young nobleman’s quest for an imprisoned princess. Yet this second opera presents a sequel: the young terrier actress leaps from the Mother Goose Theatre company to the world of opera as she lands a leading role in Mozart’s opera. The linking thematic quest remains the search for love. Unconditional parental love emerges as the heroic choice of a family. Both operas enjoy the appearance of animals and fantasy creatures with talking trees embodying true wisdom. In the second opera the terrier actress discovers her soul love mate; this challenges her parents to accept both her profession and marriage. The happy conclusion is earned through trials and near-death experience that creates earned resolution. The libretto of The Magic Flute Redux is by Emanuel Schikaneder (1751–1812).
There are two performances: Friday March 4 at 7pm and Sunday March 6 at 2pm. For the Sunday afternoon performance, tickets are only $5 for children under 12. All ticket sales benefit the Bard Conservatory Scholarship Fund. Further information can be found at http://fishercenter.bard.edu/calendar/event