Thursday, March 29, 2007

Blue Moose with dancing clams on stage!

One of my favorite authors is Daniel Manus Pinkwater, and some of my favorite Pinkwater books are the Blue Moose books, including The Moosepire. Other Pinkwater favorites include Lizard Music and The Last Guru (in case you're wondering). The Blue Moose tales take place in Maine. Now comes outrageous news out of California, of all places, that The Blue Moose has been made into an opera! The L.A. Times ran the story in their Weekend Calendar today:
Revered Pinkwater book is now 'Blue Moose Opera'
'Blue Moose Opera' adds new ingredients to a delectable children's book.
By Sascha Zuger, Special to The Times

The literary flair of Daniel Pinkwater takes on a different pitch this weekend at the University of Redlands.

Pinkwater, the National Public Radio commentator and children's author of "The Neddiad," has collaborated with Chicago composer Daniel Tucker to create the "Blue Moose Opera," a work commissioned by the school to mark the centennial of its music program.

With directorial styling by Marco Schindelmann and the help of five student puppeteers, the 12-foot, chowder-loving moose is brought to life in the operatic adaptation of Pinkwater's children's novel "Once Upon a Blue Moose."

"Blue Moose Opera" opens in the kitchen of a small Maine inn as Chef Breton laments the coming cold. The apathetic "yups" his monosyllabic patrons offer when Breton asks if they enjoyed his culinary creations do little to cheer him. Even the chambermaid's claim that little more could be expected from a group of yuppies does not soothe the chef. It is not until a large, antlered visitor arrives that things improve.

The blue moose and Chef Breton share a love of being warm and clam chowder. Soon, they also share a residence. The moose takes it upon himself to serve the patrons. He assures proper respect is shown the great chef, as only a superior animal such as a moose can. All is well until a local game warden threatens to upset the delicate balance. The moose, six bivalve ballerinas and a hermit named Dave join together as the libretto comes to its natural end, in Pinkwater's characteristic unnatural manner.

For Andrew Glendening, director of University of Redlands' School of Music, the decision to go with Pinkwater was obvious. "I have always thought that his book 'The Big Orange Splot' would make a great opera scene," he says. "Daniel suggested that the Blue Moose would make a better subject."

"It's very popular," Pinkwater says. "Kids have loved it for 30 years. It has a moose. It has a chef and a game warden. I added a hotel maid. And I think the ballet has dancing clam chowder. Or dancing clams. Both are conceptually interesting."

Tucked between last season's ambitious production of Bellini's "Norma" and next season's "La Traviata" by Verdi, "The Blue Moose" might appear to be an unusual choice for one of the oldest music schools west of the Mississippi. Not so, says Glendening: "An opera about a blue moose serving clam chowder turns out to be a terrific vehicle for interdisciplinary collaboration since all of the usual turf issues become irrelevant."

While combining the different arts disciplines, director Schindelmann preserved the authenticity of kid-appeal by consulting a "kids committee." Some suggestions "were beyond the scope of the imaginations and/or sensibilities, perhaps willingness, of some of us adults," Schindelmann acknowledges, including an idea to include "an ever-morphing moose.... I didn't present it to the rest of the creative team as I knew it wasn't within our costume budget."

Schindelmann hopes that the production's integration of music and dance into a well-loved children's story shows that success can be found by inviting many chefs, and one large moose, into the kitchen.

'Blue Moose Opera'
Where: Glenn Wallichs Theatre, University of Redlands, 1200 E. Colton Ave., Redlands, CA
When: 8 p.m. today and Friday, 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
Price: $10; $7 for students, staff, seniors and children
Info: (909) 748-8881;

Photo: Mr. Breton (tenor Julio Carrillo) serves his clam chowder to the puppeteer-operated Blue Moose (sung by basso Chip Gross, left) in the opera commissioned by the University of Redlands. (Andrew Glendening)
Anybody out there want to send me a videotape of the performance??? *grin*

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