HGO's The Little Prince & the Children's Chorus

Houston Grand Opera casts 22 children in Family-Friendly Show

by Bernadette Verzosa
 
"One sees clearly only with the heart. Anything essential is invisible to the eyes."
                                                                    - the fox, The Little Prince


Photos by Brett Coomer

      Andy Jones likes to play catch with his dad, ride bikes with his friends, snuggle with his cats and curl up with good books. Most recently, the fifth grader read the classic French novella The Little Prince and he quickly connected with the main character. "His personality is funny. He's a curious little kid who asks questions, who won't be quiet. I ask a lot of questions. I won't be quiet really. I just keep talking sometimes," he says.

      Jones has immersed himself in The Little Prince after being cast in the starring role for the Houston Grand Opera production that's showing at the Wortham Theater Center this holiday season. The family-friendly opera is based on the poetic and profound tale written by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry in 1943. The storyline follows the adventures of a little boy and a pilot, and some of their strange encounters in the desert.     

      "In my opinion, the story is easier to understand in the opera. It's one of the better books I've read but it can be confusing," he says. "It's easier to learn the book's big lesson in the opera which is to look with your heart and that anything essential is invisible."          

      Jones is alternating as the lead with Cohle Smith, a seventh grader. "Families need to see The Little Prince. It's a show about love and becoming so close to something, having it taken away, knowing that it's still there and protecting the things that matter," says Smith.

 

FLYING & REHEARSALS

      The two boys have become good friends, spending long hours at rehearsals together. In addition to singing and acting, both have been delighted with the flying. "Every time the little prince travels to different planets, he flies," says Smith. "I fly four times in the show. There's a cool scene when I'm holding a ring with little birds on it and the birds are flying me."

      HGO presented the world premiere of The Little Prince in 2003. Children's Chorus Director Karen Reeves worked with the creators and youngest singers then, as she is now. "It's a great opera. It's one of those children's stories that adults can enjoy on its own merit," she says. "One of the things that's very different about it is the huge role the children's chorus plays in it besides the fact that the title role is a child. Those things make it a lot more interesting for younger people - to be able to see kids up there of varying ages be that strong in their part."        

      Twenty Houston area girls and boys of various ages are in the children's chorus. "Our chorus has one second grader and one eleventh grader and everything in between, and that's by design. I don't want it looking or sounding like a high school choir. I want some of the younger voices to color the sound, and I need the older voices to anchor that sound," she says.

 

THE CHILDREN'S CHORUS

       Reeves has been HGO Children's Chorus Director since 1991. She has prepared the children's chorus and child soloists in many operas including La Boheme, Carmen, A Midsummer Night's Dream and Hansel and Gretel.     

      "The children's chorus is the innocence, the bright spot, in so many operas. It gives the audience a chance to breathe a little if the opera is darker and heading downhill, spiraling emotionally," she explains. "Composers put that in because it's the frivolity and the playfulness that the story needs because it's about the whole personhood."       

       Reeves has witnessed the impact that participation in theater and the opera can have on children. "It evolves them. It helps them with self-confidence. I've watched that with a lot of kids over the years, my own included. My own were in the children's chorus. You can see theater and debate and that kind of thing that forces them to be in front of people and follow through and be successful," she says.             
        This is the second HGO production this fall to feature a children's chorus. Reeves also worked with the children in the season opener Tosca and she juggled the two shows when rehearsal schedules overlapped. "The children's chorus in The Little Prince goes throughout the way like a Greek Chorus. They comment on things and support different characters along the way. They help tell the story," she says. "I really encourage families to come to it. It's very appealing for children to see other children. They watch someone do it and they say I can do that."

THE LITTLE PRINCE performances are at the Cullen Theater in the Wortham Theater Center from December 4-20. The show is 2 hours long with one 20-minute intermission. 
CLICK HERE for SHOW TIMES and to PURCHASE TICKETS 

 





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