EFS Instructor Mark Morris, Debute: The Carpenter and the Oniroku

Edmonton Opera presents a new mini-opera for children at Opera al Fresco. The librettist is EFS Contract Instructor, Mark Morris, who has written eleven operas that have now been performed in eight countries.

6 June 2014

Press Release

For immediate release

Edmonton Opera presents a new mini-opera for children at Opera al Fresco

A Japanese demon, a bridge-builder who can't build bridges, and a bunch of children who want to get across the river but can't - such is the potent mix of Edmonton Opera's new 'mini-opera' for children and adults, which will open the operatic events at the ever-popular open-air Opera al Fresco in the Devonian Botanic Gardens on June 20.

The 15-minute opera, The Carpenter and the Oniroku, has been specially written for the Edmonton Opera Children's Chorus, based at Victoria School for the Arts, and for the lovely Japanese Garden in the Devonian Gardens.

The composer is Samantha Semler, a student at the University of Alberta, who was one of Edmonton Symphony Orchestra's two Young Composers in 2012, and who has won prizes provincially for her music.

The librettist - the person who writes the words for operas - is Mark Morris, who has written eleven operas that have now been performed in eight countries, including works for children and adults that have been given in major music festivals in Banff, Mexico, and Ireland, and at such venues as the Royal Albert Hall in London.

"This is such fun to do," Mark says, "though I was a bit stuck at the beginning, because I was having difficulty finding a story that would suit the Japanese Garden, and would use the river and the bridge there. Then one of my Children's Literature students at the University wrote an essay comparing Rumpelstiltskin to a traditional Japanese folk-tale that I hadn't heard of. That Japanese story has a river, a bridge, and children in it. Serendipity."

For composer Semler writing an opera like this is a new experience. "It's such a great opportunity to work in a genre I haven't done before," she says. "I love kids, and being able to write for them, meet them, and attend rehearsals is inspiring me to think about writing more choral works and works for children."

She also sees it as a fun story to do. "The kids really enjoy it, but the audience will find it fun, too."

For Edmonton Opera Children's Chorus director Janice Tole, who has extensive experience working with children and opera, it's exciting to be working with an inspirational team creating something specific for the chorus and for the occasion. "The new opera is extending the children's arts education in music, movement, and story-telling, and, as one of the chorus said to me, 'I'm so excited to be singing in our own production'."

The role of the carpenter is being taken by tenor Iain Gillis, general manager at Cantilon Choirs, and that of the demon Oniroku by Bertrand Malo, who has sung roles for Edmonton Opera's main-stage performances.

"My character the carpenter doesn't believe that the demon can build the bridge," says Gillis. "So foolishly he is prepared to give up his eyeballs if the demon succeeds. To find out if I can still spell my name with both i's by the end of the opera, you just have to come and see it!"

To arrange interviews with composer, librettist, conductor, or soloists, contact Mark Morris at 780-477-5155 or cell 780-993-9755.

The Carpenter and the Oniroku
A new mini opera for children and adults
Opera al Fresco
Composer: Samantha Semler
Librettist: Mark Morris
Edmonton Children's Chorus
Conductor: Janice Tole
Soloists: Iain Gillis and Bertrand Malo
Where: Devonian Gardens

When: June 20, 2014

Tickets: www.edmontonopera.com