Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast
First, the audience was treated to Raise Up Your Voices, created by Martha Collins and Youth Opera conductor Jesse Martins, a 30-minute presentation of music from various sources, including Antonín Dvořák, Giacomo Puccini, and others, set to texts which explore the juxtaposition of love and intolerance. Featured were a cast of young voices in varied groups and as a choir of all.
Particularly moving were "We Hold These Truths" by Dvořák to text from the Declaration of Independence, "It All Depends on How You Look at It" also by Dvořák to text by Miroslav Košek, and "Little Partridge" an Armenian folk song. Subjects addressed included mass hatred, bullying, and the Holocaust. Performers were greeted with a standing ovation, mostly through teary eyes. The beauty of young people and their beautiful clear voices was highly moving.
Taking place in a small village in middle Europe, theoretically in two acts, is the story of brother and sister Annette and Little Joe. Their mother is sick, feeling weak. She needs milk to give her strength. The two go down to the village market where all kinds of wares are for sale, including the needed milk, but because they have no money, they can't get it. Brundibár, an organ grinder, enters and soon has the crowd under his spell with his oom-pah-pah tunes, to which they dance. Sister and brother wander into the woods, toward home, get lost and fall asleep as act one ends.
Act two has our hero and heroine waking up, greeted by trios of cats, dogs and sparrows. Besides showing them the way out of the woods, they also help hatch a plan to acquire the needed dairy drink. Back to the marketplace they go, where Brundibár again has the crowd in thrall. The children sing and dance to his music and when they pass the hat and collect much needed coins, the evil organ grinder grabs the money, claiming it is his. The crowd helps the children overcome the villain, happiness ensues, and mother recovers to happiness all around.
The opera makes no vocal demands not easily met by young voices. Krása wrote in an easily digestible harmonic palette, almost as if the late romantic composers had not existed. There is not a great deal of melodic interest, potentially good tunes never seem to go anywhere to become memorable. Still, it was fun for the kids and Sarasota Youth Opera used it well as a launching pad toward other issues.
The leading parts were double cast. Rather than single out any one person above others, let me say that all the singing was more than adequate and director Martha Collins got some nice acting from her charges. Costumes by Howard Tsvi Kaplan and uncredited settings should have made the children feel like pros. Conductor Jesse Martin led both halves with poise.
Brundibár was presented by Sarasota Youth Opera November 15 and 16, 2019, at Sarasota Opera, 61 N. Pineapple Avenue, Sarasota FL. For more information call 941-366-8450 or visit www.sarasotaopera.org.
Youth Opera Mixed Chorus:
Youth Opera Preparatory Ensemble: