Wayland plans Children's Opera

Release Date: November 13, 2009

PLAINVIEW – The Wayland Baptist University School of Music will perform this year’s children’s opera in conjunction with other opera scenes at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 20-21, in Wayland’s Harral Memorial Auditorium. Admission is free and open to the public.

Led by Director of Vocal Studies/Opera/Musical Theatre Jeff Kensmoe, Wayland will present Seymour Barak’s Chanticleer, a children’s opera about a self-absorbed rooster.

The title role will be played by John McGuire, a professional opera singer and friend of Kensmoe’s. Based in both Boston and Phoenix, McGuire agreed to spend some time in Plainview to assist Kensmoe with what is an extremely challenging role.

“It’s based on a Chaucer play,” Kensmoe said. “It is a fun story about a little old woman who lives in a dale and owns two chickens, Chanticleer and Pertolote.”

Kensmoe said the opera is an archetypical hero story about a rooster whose Achilles heel is flattery. A fox, played by Matthew Whitson, uses flattery in order to try and eat Chanticleer and Pertolote, played by Rachel Williams. The widow, played by Rebecca Ballinger, and Pertolote save Chanticleer who then saves the day.

“I’ve wanted to do Chanticleer forever,” Kensmoe said. “But the lead character’s role is crazy hard.”

When McGuire agreed to lend his talents to the piece, Kensmoe jumped at the opportunity. McGuire is also lending his talents as an instructor, teaching master classes during his time at Wayland.

“I’ve enjoyed my time here,” McGuire said. “The students have been excellent and their talents are superb. I’m impressed with the theatre. It is a beautiful place to perform.”

Chanticleer will last about 45 minutes followed by an intermission and a second set that is geared more toward an adult audience. Kensmoe said families with children are free to leave during the intermission as the second half of the evening may not appeal to a young crowd.

Following the intermission, the evening will feature scenes and familiar music from several pieces, including The Magic Flute, Don Giovanni, Wicked, She Loves Me, and A Little Night Music by Stephen Sondheim. One scene will also feature a set of old cowboy songs including “I’m an Old Cow Hand,” “Jingle, Jangle, Jingle,” “Don’t Fence Me in,” and more.

“We tried to find something for everybody whether it is dramatic or musical comedy,” Kensmoe said.

Williams, who also portrays Desiree Armfeldt in A Little Night Music, said the evening is enjoyable for the actors and musicians, as well as the audience.

“It’s fun because you experience a lot of different styles that you might not experience otherwise,” said Williams who is a veteran of the Wayland stage. However, she is primarily a dramatic actress and is still somewhat unsure about her role in the children’s opera.

“I’ve never been in a children’s opera, and it’s very melodramatic,” she said. “It’s over the top.”

Along with the two public performances of the children’s opera, the group will present Chanticleer to approximately 2,000 area school students on Monday and Tuesday, Nov. 23-24. The opera will be presented twice each day at 9:30 a.m. and 1 p.m.