Parlando: The COC Blog

11/14/2012

Interview with Dean Burry, Creator and Composer of The Brothers Grimm

Our Ensemble Studio is on tour across Ontario this month performing Hansel and Gretel and The Brothers Grimm. But did you know that The Brothers Grimm is celebrating its 500th performance next month during GrimmFest?

The popular children's opera was created by Dean Burry, a composer born and raised in Newfoundland. Holding a master's degree in composition, Burry started his career at the Canadian Opera Company as a Ticket Services representative. He quickly found his way to the Education department where he started the COC’s popular After School Opera Program in 1997 – a program he still runs today. In 1999, Burry was commissioned to create The Brothers Grimm and it debuted two years later. The opera was a hit and has been performed across Canada, the US and had its European debut last spring.

 

What first interested you in The Brothers Grimm?

In 1997 I was working in the box office when the education co-ordinator did a staff chat on Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel, which was programmed for the following season. The opera chat was interesting, but what I found most fascinating was that while everyone knew the Grimm's fairy tales almost no one knew who the Grimm Brothers were. 

Read more...

Posted by Danielle D'Ornellas / in Xstrata Ensemble Studio School Tour / comments (1) / permalink

11/9/2011

Hansel and Gretel: It's All About the Glitter

[This is a guest post by Ensemble Studio member Jenna Douglas, a pianist and coach. Jenna Douglas is the music director of Hansel and Gretel, currently touring with the Xstrata Ensemble Studio School Tour. Follow Jenna on twitter at @jennamariepiano!] 

The Hansel and Gretel school tour has been clicking along nicely. My ears are getting used to the sound of hysterical shrieks from the kids; sometimes the shrieks are accompanied by shouts of warning to Lisa and Rihab (our Gretel and Hansel). More surprisingly was a calm, assured applause that rippled through the family audience during a public performance just as the Witch is hurled into her own oven. Some kids really do take this opera business seriously, even daring to shush the odd deviant child who dared to speak over the performance. One little girl, warming my heart, asked us how we came up with this version of Hansel and Gretel, as opposed to the original Grimm story. I am forever thankful to parents who read to their kids.

Popular questions from the kids continue to be about the origins of our gingerbread-woman, and why Rihab is trying to pass herself off as a boy. During one Q&A, one teacher asked Michael to change out of his Narrator costume, back into the Witch, "so the kids can sleep at night." Obligingly, Michael showed the crowd of excited boys and girls how he grows a hairy, bulbous nose and a set of scary red claws on each hand. It seemed to offer the kids a bit of relief.

Other tidbits: we set an amazing set-up record of nine minutes after getting caught in rush-hour traffic. We managed to grab a moment of nostalgia at one school when we were given access to the gym equipment room to change. Hula hoops, scooters, tricycles, oh my. Glitter-hungry children continue to save us the effort of sweeping up the Sandman's confetti post-show.

Photo: Ambur Braid and Michael Barrett take advantage of the "special equipment" in the warm-up room at one of the schools on the Hansel and Gretel tour. Photo © Jenna Douglas 2011.

Posted by Jenna Douglas / in Xstrata Ensemble Studio School Tour / comments (1) / permalink

11/4/2011

The First Performance of Hansel and Gretel

[This is a guest post by Ensemble Studio member Jenna Douglas, a pianist and coach. Jenna Douglas is the music director of Hansel and Gretel, currently touring with the Xstrata Ensemble Studio School Tour. Follow Jenna on twitter at @jennamariepiano!] 

As the sun was rising on Tuesday morning, team Hansel and Gretel squeezed into a van, and in various degrees of chipperness, we made our way to our first tour destination. We performed two shows at Ridgewood Public School in Mississauga for kids from Kindergarten to Grade 3. If I do say so myself, we were a hit.  Rihab and Lisa had the kids' attention from the very start (the kids obviously know good paddy-cake when they see it). Michael drew shrieks of laughter as the Witch, and the puppets stole the show as usual.  There were a few isolated cases of tears and screams today, but I mostly heard the kids collectively “ooh” and “ahh” over the costumes, the set, and of course over the glitter. My only regret of today's show was that our beloved and juvenile whoopee cushion was inaudible over the sound of an entertained group of young kids.  I think even that's something we can take as a compliment.

The Q&A sessions after each show had a few amusing moments as well. One student asked us if we had a website; I think this was only notable to me because it made me feel a tangible generational difference (read: old). A little girl asked if Hansel was a boy or a girl, and Rihab explained the pants-role convention, taking off her hat to prove her femininity. As though several bets had been settled amongst the kids, there was a rustle of surprise and satisfaction.

Tomorrow, two more shows at two more schools.  We are taking suggestions for car-ride games to play en route.

Photo: The cast and creative team of the Xstrata Ensemble Studio School Tour production of Hansel and Gretel. © Karen Reeves 2011

Posted by Jenna Douglas / in Xstrata Ensemble Studio School Tour / comments (1) / permalink

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Sara Fulgoni in the COC production of Bluebeard's Castle. Photo: Michael Cooper © 2001

 

 

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