Parlando: The COC Blog

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

11/2/2011

Hansel and Gretel

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

Hansel and Gretel is one of those kids' stories you remember vaguely from childhood.  It's the kind where when you Google the synopsis to jog your memory, you find out it was actually not a kids' story all along. That weird juxtaposition of "kid's story" and "scary" always does it for me; but I'm sure terrified, nightmare-plagued kids would disagree. So when director Joel Ivany and I went about adapting a version of Hansel and Gretel to make it less dark and more school-friendly, I wondered if the show could retain at least a bit of its alluring mix of light and dark.

Entertaining kids is a tricky balance. Predicting what they'll see and remember during a show is always a guess, but they can be counted upon to be harsh critics. So I extend many congratulations to Joel, our stage manager Lesley Abarquez and the entire cast for putting together a beautiful show that is beautifully sung, smart, and magical.

In this production, the Mother (Ambur Braid) and Father (Neil Craighead/Philippe Sly) are more hangry (hungry leads to angry) than abusive, the Sandman (Neil Craighead/Philippe Sly) seems much more full of testosterone than usual, and Hansel's (Rihab Chaieb) and Gretel's (Lisa DiMaria) spiritual reverence has been cashed in for the worship of sugar. The Witch (Michael Barrett) is a bumbling, bespectacled hag, full of gaseous outbursts and ceaseless saliva. There's even a puppet show.

We begin the 2011 school tour this week. I can't wait to look out at the kids, and try to see what they see.

Photo: A scene from the Xstrata Ensemble Studio School Tour production of Hansel and Gretel, 2011. Photo © Karen Reeves, 2011. 

Posted by Jenna Douglas / in Xstrata Ensemble Studio School Tour / comments (0) / permalink

11/1/2011

Dean Burry wins Louis Applebaum Composers Award!

Composer Dean Burry, who recently travelled with the Isis and the Seven Scorpions tour (and did some blogging and some tweeting as well!) has won the Louis Applebaum Composers Award, in recognition of his excellence in composing works for young people.

He's written two operas for our annual school tour, Isis and the Seven Scorpions and the massively successful The Brothers Grimm

From the release:

"Other major works include The Hobbit, Baby Kintyre, The Mummers' Masque and The Bremen Town Musicians. The Vinland Traveler, commissioned by Memorial University of Newfoundland, toured 6,500 km throughout the province including performances at several Inuit and Innu schools in Northern Labrador. CBC's Musicraft broadcast a complete performance of The Vinland Traveler in November 2006.

"The jurors noted Dean's ability to create 'an expressive and innovate sound world which children find captivating (and) you can hear the joy in children's voices during their performances.'" [read the full release]

We interviewed Dean last year about Isis and the Seven Scorpions and his approach to writing for young audiences. You can also read more on our website about the Xstrata Ensemble Studio School Tour and the After School Opera Program.

Photo: Dean Burry. Anand Maharaj © 2008

Posted by Cecily Carver / in Xstrata Ensemble Studio School Tour / comments (0) / permalink

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

 

 

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