My name is Molly Pinson Simoneau and I am obsessed with opera. I often refer to myself as an “opera evangelist.” What does that mean? It means I am out to turn as many people into fellow opera lovers as I can—and like any evangelist, I believe children are ideal targets for conversion.
Seriously though, children love opera. If you’re questioning that statement, it’s probably because you’ve never put on a DVD of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville in front of a 4-year-old (in Italian, no less) and watched her sit wide-eyed staring up at it for the whole two hours. So when my friend Michael Oberhauser, composer and founder of Silver Finch Arts Collective, came to me with an idea to present an opera for children at this summer’s Capital Fringe Festival, I was down.
What Michael came up with is what we’re now calling Once Upon a Bedtime, and it started with the short children’s opera, The Goose Girl, by living composer Thomas Pasatieri, based on the Grimm’s Fairy Tale of the same name. Michael has expanded on Pasatieri’s work by composing beautiful original music to frame the piece. The result is a sort of play within a play (or an opera within a play?): A mother reads a bedtime story to her daughter, and the magical fairy tale comes to life right there in her room.
And we are having so much fun creating this fantasy! I have the lucky privilege of being both an opera fanatic and a performer at the same time, so when I’m not belting out my best high Bs as the Queen in rehearsals, I’m marveling at my colleagues’ performances. These are real, classically-trained opera singers with real chops. Courtney Kalbacker is the perfect princess, all bubbles and sparkling high notes. Andrew Sauvageau, who audiences might remember as the tortured hero Achilles in Silver Finch’s 2014 production A Fire in Water, plays an exquisite curmudgeon of a talking horse. Tricia Lepofsky is a wonderfully bratty Waiting Woman. Jeffrey Gates lends his robust baritone voice to the role of the King, and Rameen Chaharbaghi plays his sullen son. Of course no opera is complete without a tenor, and you can bet Miles Herr, who plays the goose wrangler Conrad, found a place to interpolate a high C in our first rehearsal.
All this is to say that channeling our inner children and getting really playful has made working on Once Upon a Bedtime even more fun than usual, as we work hard to interpret notes from our director Nick Vargas like “this moment should be all about how excited you are about your cookie.”
We think children will be delighted by this special performance just for them, with singers whose voices fill the theater without the need for a microphone, a chamber orchestra, and plenty magical surprises; and their parents will love the gorgeous music too. Our goal is that children and parents alike will call themselves opera fans after seeing our show.
Soprano Molly Pinson Simoneau will be performing as the Queen in Once Upon a Bedtime, and has previously appeared on Washington area stages as Alice Ford in Shakespeare Opera Theater’s Falstaff, as Sharon in Reston Community Players’ Master Class, and as Giorgetta in Riverbend Opera Company’s Il Tabarro. Molly writes occasional opera and theater reviews for local publications including Washington City Paper, and is also an avid “tweeter” @operarocksme.
Once Upon a Bedtime
July 7 — July 24, 2016
Atlas Performing Arts Center
1333 H Street NE,
Washington, DC 22202
Show details and tickets