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November 25, 1994 - Image 87

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1994-11-25

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Music and
lyrics for a
new children's
opera were
worked out
frOm a distance.

very child who believes
that being part of 'a musi-
cal show would be the best
Chanukah gift of all needs
only to wait a little while
for that to happen.
During the holiday sea-
son, the Michigan Opera
Theatre (MOT) is begin-
ning to take a new chil-
dren's opera, Aesop's
Fables, to 60,000 boys and
girls around the state.
With a cast of three
adults presenting "The
Fox and the Crow," "The
Tortoise and the Hare," "The
Grasshopper and the Ant" and
"The Lion and the Mouse," the
opera also is going to include dif-
ferent children's choruses picked
at every place the opera will be
performed and songs audiences
will sing along with the cast.
Each year, MOT tours the state
with full operas, one-act operas
and musical revues. Aesop's Fa-
bles will become the major offer-
ing for Michigan schools during
the 1994-96 seasons based on re-
sponses to a teachers' survey that
led to its development.
In addition to about 60 school
performances each year with an
average audience of 500, other
free metro area programs are
The opera will be staged three
times during First Night, the city
of Birniingham's New Year's eve
celebration for families; the loca-
tion is still to be announced. There
also will be a presentation Jan. 22
at Temple Beth El.
After 1996, the opera becomes
available to other companies
throughout the United States.
"Opera segments range in
length from six to 24 minutes and
are connected by dialogue," said
Karen DiChiera, director of corn-
munity programs at MOT. Her
efforts went into making the
opera a sophisticated production
within strict time limits so that it
could be performed during fixed
classroom periods.
Ms. DiChiera selected the writ-
ers for the opera. Douglas Braver-
man wrote the script and the
lyrics, and Lawrence Singer com-
posed the music. Both believe that

their Jewish cultural
backgrounds helped
mold their style.
The team met last
December just to de-
cide that the words
would be completed
ahead of the music
and did not speak
again until the first
rehearsal of the vo-
"This approach is
not original to us," Mr.
Braverman said.
"Gilbert and Sullivan
worked this way for
many years because
they did not get along.
We did it this way be-
cause we were sepa-
rated by distance."
Mr. Braverman,
who works full time
as director of pur-
chasing for Renault
North America and
sometime translator
for Renault USA Inc.,
often is required to
travel. Mr. Singer,
who works as a free- Larry Singer and Douglas Braverman only met once.
lance composer and is
about to teach a mu-
sic composition course at Oakland found that the ones that have be-
University, also leaves the Detroit come the most enduring were the
best," Mr. Bravetman said.
area to accept assignments.
Mr. Braverman is not new to
"Since I did the lyrics first, it
gaVe me a great deal of freedom," MOT. He previously collaborated
said Mr. Braverman, 42. "I wrote with composer Richard Berent,
largely during a one- week vaca- writing the script and lyrics for
tion in New York, and then I sent Cheering Up a Princess.
That earlier team also provid-
it all to Larry with suggestions as
to the type of music I heard in the ed the scores for Expectations, a
back of my mind. Larry, in turn, show about Christmas and
received my work by mail and Chanukah in Detroit presented
at the Attic Theatre; Peter Pan-
wrote the score."
Mr. Singer, 53, spent 600 hours demonium, a children's musical
on the opera, which is the first he produced at the Players Club in
has composed. He found that the Detroit; and numerous original
words formed an easy pattern to comedy songs for singer Sheri
Nichols, a former Detroiter now
"Once Douglas set up the working in California.
Mr. Braverman has had an
rhythm, he kept to it," Mr. Singer
said. 'When music can get into original comedy, Snowman, pro-
that rhythmical context, a big part duced in New York, where he was
raised and lived until Renault
of the problem is solved."
As the scriptwriter, Mr. Braver- transferred him to Michigan in
man decided which lesson-teach- 1980.
Mr. Singer's career started
ing fables to include.
"I had hoped to take some of when he was a teen-ager growing
the most obscure fables, but I up in Michigan, when he played



oboe and composed works that
have been recorded and per-
formed in other countries.
As a college student taking
classes in Italy 30 years ago, he
built a European audience
through his records and radio ap-
In addition to completing as-
signments for many orchestras
including the Detroit Symphony,
the graduate of the Eastman
School of Music wrote the
melodies for a special piece re-
quested by the Holocaust Memo-
rial Center. Based on the lyrics of
a Polish survivor, the composition
soon will be recorded.
Mr. Braverman hopes Aesop's
Fables will interest children in
opera itself, making them want
to see more.
"The impressions hopefully
will stay with them," Mr. Singer
said. 111





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