London-based touring company English Touring Opera (ETO) recently announced that it would be back on the road with two new productions and a revival for its spring 2023 season. The company has now added two short operas for younger audiences to its roster.
The two pieces for younger audiences are Zoo!, with music by composer and sound artist Lucie Treacher and a libretto by writer and musicologist Kate Wakeling and The Wish Gatherer by composer Noah Mosley and New Jersey-born writer and poet JL Williams. Both works are only 45 minutes in length and performed in English.
The former is a new participatory opera for children aged 2-5 and audiences with special educational needs and disabilities. It tells the story of zookeeper Ari who has fallen asleep and lost the zoo’s tree frog.
Audiences will meet warthogs, purple turtles and Amazonian parrots as ETO invites them to become zookeepers for the day to help Ari find the missing tree frog. Zoo! uses adventure, singing and multi-sensory elements to teach us about communication, confidence and how the most important thing in life is to be yourself.
The role of hapless zookeeper Ari is shared by mezzo-sopranos Hollie-anne Bangham and Sophie Dicks. Sopranos Rachel Speirs and Katherine McIndoe share the roles of Parrot and Warthog, while baritones Phil Wilcox and Ben Knight share the remaining roles: Owl, Sloth and Purple Turtle.
This new production is directed by Susan Moore, with Katie Blackwell as assistant director. It is designed by Amanda Mascarenhas; Alice Kristina Rose is costume supervisor.
As well as a series of schools performances across England, the show will tour to York Theatre Royal (24 March) and The Wardens Trust, Leiston (22 April) for public performances. Tickets for York are available now, with Leiston on sale soon.
The Wish Gatherer is the first in ETO’s trilogy of new operas about climate change. It has been created in collaboration with Julie’s Bicycle, a non-profit organisation using the arts and culture to take action on the climate and ecological crisis. The music has been composed by long-term ETO collaborator Noah Mosley. He previously composed digital puppet opera The Firebird, set to the poem of the same name by poet, children’s author and former Children’s Laureate Michael Rosen, and multimedia opera Aiden!, based on Handel’s Amadigi (1715).
Aimed at children aged 7-11, it explores the impact of climate change on the natural world in a national curriculum-linked adventure story. It follows Lola, a young girl struggling with the effects on her world after Covid-19, her parent’s recent divorce and the climate crisis.
On her journey she will meet the magical Wish Gatherer, the mysterious and dark Muddier, the disenchanted bee, Bumbella, and the enterprising Seed Planter. The opera explores beauty, loss, revolution and new beginnings.
The Wish Gatherer is directed by Abigail Kelly; Callie Nestleroth is assistant director. Music direction is by Robin Wallington, while the team of Amanda Mascarenhas and Alice Kristina Rose again take on designs and costumes.
As with Zoo!, each role is shared between two singers. The main part of Lola is sung by sopranos Julia Mariko and Caroline Taylor, while the eponymous Wish Gatherer is played by baritones Jerome Knox and Peter Edge.
Bass Masimba Ushe and bass-baritone Edward Jowle share the role of Muddier. The final two roles, Bumbella and Seed Planter, are sung by tenors Brenton Spiteri and Matthew McKinney.
The production will tour to several schools in England for a series of special performances for children.
Zoo! by Lucie Treacher and Kate Wakeling is one of two new children’s operas in English Touring Opera’s spring 2023 line-up.