Saturday, February 6, 2016

Memory Boy - Project Opera at the Lab Theater

Project Opera is a training program for young singers, from grades 4 - 12. In conjunction with the Minnesota Opera New Works Initiative program, they created a new kids opera - Memory Boy. It has a very limited run at the Lab Theater. Memory Boy is based on the book by Will Weaver, a MN author. The story is about a family escaping from the cities to their cabin up north. There has been a cataclysmic change in the environment and the people, and the safest place is north, away from others. The main character is Miles, and it is his family and his story that we follow through this hour-long, eight scene opera. The opera was composed by Reinaldo Moya with a libretto by Mark Campbell.

This was my first experience with Project Opera and I believe that everyone on stage (from the orchestra to all the singers) where between 4th and 12th grade. If that is the case, WOW!!! We have a lot of talent, young talent, in these Twin Cities. The Lab Theater was set up with audience risers on one side, and the stage on the other. At the back of the stage was a riser with the 13-piece orchestra. The cast was a cast also 13 in number but with a very large chorus. Since there a total of six performances, some of the cast members only sing three of the six. The names listed are who I saw at the first performance (though Kjell does sing at all six). Alex Stokes (playing Miles) was very good with a strong voice, and clear character. In fact the whole family - Sarah, the sister (Emma Shine), Natalie, the mom (Erica Thelen), and Arthur, the father (Kjell Redpath) were great! They sounded very good together and in their respective solos. Also standing out was the character Kurz (Jonathan Rhodes), and the nurse (Tessa Larson). Kurz has quite a bit of singing and he was fantastic! 

Musically it sounded very much like John Adams to me. The music was a bit on the minimal side (not in a repetitive Glass or Reich way), but with a very nice waltz thrown in and a lovely jazz section. The libretto was very good and clearly told a story. There were a few transitions that I felt could be stronger but out of the cheering audience of parents and family, I may have been the only one to think that. Also, there were a few moments where the acting could have been stronger but was par for the course considering the age group and the focus of the program. Honestly, I really enjoyed myself and thought it was a very good piece. I was truly amazed at the talent of these kids and am looking forward to more. Bravo to the Minnesota Opera for having such a wonderful program!