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SU Florence co-produces children’s opera ‘Where the Wild Things Are’
SU Florence co-produces children’s opera ‘Where the Wild Things Are’January 20, 2005Jaime Winne Alvarez firstname.lastname@example.org
Syracuse University Division of International Programs Abroad’s Florence center and Florence’s Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, in conjunction with Maggio Fiorentino Formazione, have teamed to co-produce the children’s opera “Where the Wild Things Are” at a gala benefit for the Meyer Children’s Hospital in Florence on Jan. 23 at the Piccolo Teatro of Florence’s opera house.
The opera is premiering in Italy. The first public performances took place on Jan. 18 and 19. Additional presentations are scheduled for Jan. 20, 22 and 25.
SU Florence’s Director Barbara Deimling directs the project. The opera is based on the book written and illustrated by Maurice Sendak. It features music by contemporary English composer Oliver Knussen with libretto and original drawings by Sendak. Roberto Polastri conducts singers and orchestra from Maggio Fiorentino Formazione who will perform in English with Italian subtitles.
“The production is truly magical and our first performance for Italian school children was an extraordinary success,” says Deimling. “The applause was unending, with the children stamping their feet and the theater’s atmosphere filled with vibrant enthusiasm. Teachers said the children had never seen something so beautiful.”
The book’s popularity has reached mythical proportions in the United States and is compared to “Pinocchio” in Italy or “The Little Prince” in France. Yet, it remains relatively unknown in Italy. The performances further cross-cultural understanding, an important effort of the SU Florence program.
“The success of our first performance makes me very happy, as the scope of this endeavor was to reach out to the community, introducing an aspect of American culture. It is a true intercultural exchange for our students,” says Deimling.
The book centers on Max, a wild little boy who dons a wolf suit and gets into mischief. Max’s mother sends him to his room where suddenly a forest inhabited by wild monsters springs to life. Max dances and plays with the monsters, but soon realizes there’s no place quite like home.
Artistic director and choreographer Amy Luckenbach, an internationally renowned puppet maker with Teatro Minimo, has turned Max into a puppet to reduce the size of the enormous monsters to human stature and make them more manageable on stage.
The project has involved faculty, staff and students from SU Florence including: set designer Marco Fallani; costume designer Kathy Knippel; and project designer and coordinator Lisa Friend. Faculty from SU’s main campus are also involved. Alex Koziara, professor of design in SU’s Drama Department, serves as lighting designer; and Murray Tinkelman, professor of visual communications, will present a lecture on Sendak and his art during the week before the gala.
Students from the Florence program assisted with set and costume design as part of courses held during the Fall semester. They also interned for various organizations involved with the opera’s premiere, working in the Meyer Hospital with hospitalized children to create monsters made of papier-mache that will be seated alongside audience members during performances; introducing the book and opera to Italian school children in their English and music classes as preparation for their opera visit; and photographing the work in progress for an exhibition in the foyer of the Teatro Comunale.
“This is the ultimate collaboration between the visual and performing arts,” says Carole Brzozowski, dean of SU’s College of Visual and Performing Arts. “We have faculty and students on two continents working to make the story come alive. I am honored that our college is part of the production.”