Children’s Operas in the 2000s

In my last article, I introduced six Children’s operas written in the 1900s. Children’s operas are often made for children or young people, but they also appeal to adult audiences. In this article, I share eight more children’s operas that were recently composed. Many of them can be viewed online for free. Is there one or two that you are particularly interested in?

The Jungle Book by Kamala Sankaram

The Jungle Book was an adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s book of the same title. Libretto by Kelley Rourke, the opera is a refugee story from the tale of Mowgli. In the opera, American composer and soprano Kamala Sankaram adopted features from Indian classical music. These features included creating the color and mood by using Hindustani ragas, and the rhythm by applying Indian tala and instruments like ghatam.

The opera premiered at the Glimmerglass Festival in 2022.

The Firebird by Noah Mosley

The Firebird is a puppet opera composed by Noah Mosley. It is based on the traditional Russian fable which was later reworked as the libretto of this opera by Michael Rosen. In this opera, Ivan, a young and self-centered prince captures The Firebird. The Firebird helps him by giving him a feather. The story also includes Ivan meeting the free-spirited Princess and the mean and cold-hearted King. The opera made its digital premiere in 2022 and the video was co-produced by English Touring Opera and Little Angel Theatre.

A Trip to the Moon, A Melodrama for Children by Andrew Norman

According to the program note, A Trip to the Moon is a melodrama (a stage work that combines spoken recitation and music) as well as a “retro-futurist sci-fi adventure” opera. Only 50 minutes long, the opera was based on three sources: the novel De la terre à la lune (1865) by Jules Verne, the operetta Le Voyage dans la lune (1875) by Offenbach, and the silent film Le Voyage dans la lune (1902) by Georges Méliès. The opera was a documentation of a group of astronomers (including Georges Méliès) of their exploration of the moon and their experience interacting with moon people. It was premiered in 2017 by the Berlin Philharmonic conducted by Simon Rattle.

Cinderella by Alma Deutscher

British musician Alma Deutscher is currently only around 18 years old, and she appears as a composer, violinist, pianist, and conductor. Her opera, Cinderella, is based on a traditional fairy tale. It was written in four acts when Deutscher was 10 years old. Since its premiere in Vienna in 2006, the opera has drawn attention around the globe. The latest production is produced by Opera San José and it is conducted by Alma.

The Coyotes and the Rabbits by Hector Armienta

The Coyotes and The Rabbits is a bilingual opera (mostly English with some Spanish words and phrases) written by Mexican American Hector Armienta who founded Opera Cultura. The story is about two rabbits, named Chiquita and Banana, who inspire Scrawny Coyote to read. They also teach Coyote Loco to be kind to their rabbit siblings. Total in one act, The Coyotes and The Rabbits has performed in California, Oklahoma, Texas, and other states.

Les Enfants du Levant (The Children of the Levant) by Isabelle Aboulker

Isabelle Aboulker is a French composer known for her compositions for voice. She wrote a few operas for young people and Les Enfants du Levant was one of them. It was created in 2001 with words by Christian Eymery. It is based on the same-titled book by Claude Gritti. Set in 1861, the story was about children in one of the last children’s penitentiaries. The children prisoners of the time were abandoned children, orphans, or petty offenders. They were moved from Roquette prison in Paris to Sainte-Anne prison on Le Levant Island. With poor living conditions, many children died in prison.

Alice nel Paese delle Meraviglie (Alice in Wonderland) by Pierangelo Valtinoni

Pierangelo Valtinoni is an Italian composer, conductor, and organist. With a libretto by Paolo Madron, Alice nel Paese delle Meraviglie is his fifth opera written for children. It was commissioned by the Opernhaus Zurich and co-produced by the Performing Arts Centre in Hong Kong and Yip’s Children’s Choral. The chorus gave the opera its premiere in April 2021 in Hong Kong.

Mystery on the Docks by Edward Barnes

Mystery on the Docks is a 30-minute opera with three short acts. With words and music both written by American composer Edward Barnes, the opera is based on Thacher Hurd’s book of the same title. The story is about the rescue of Ralph and Edwina (a world-famous opera singer) from two rats. In addition to Mystery on the Docks, Edward Barnes wrote six other children’s operas featured in Operas for Children.

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