I had mixed feelings about attending something billed as a “children’s opera” but Laura’s Cow turned out to be quite a lot of fun. The piece was created for the Canadian Children’s Opera Company by composer Errol Gay and librettist Michael Patrick Albano. It’s a 70 minute long, somewhat wry take on Laura Secord and the War of 1812. It manages not to be too sentimental and pokes fun at the Tea Party, coyotes and Americans; which is a bit harsh on coyotes. Writing for a children’s opera company obviously places some constraints on the composer. There have to be simple choruses for the younger children. There have to be not too demanding short solos for promising older singers and so on. Within those limits Mr. Gay managed to create a score with quite a lot of musical interest especially in the orchestral writing. The sets and stage direction were effective too especially given the logistics of handling a large cast in a fairly restricted stage area.
The performances were really very good. The fourteen piece orchestra played very well indeed and the two professional soloists were excellent. John Fanning sang the baritone roles of Caller/Balladeer/Fitzgibbon. He has quite a powerful voice and it was easy for him to fill the relatively small Enwave Theatre with sound. The real star of the show was Marta Herman as Laura’s talking cow. She’s got a really nice developing mezzo voice, excellent diction and good comic timing. She also had all the best lines. Apparently she’s off to the Opernstudio in Frankfurt for next two seasons. Laura was sung by Emily Brown Gibson who acted well and seems to be a good musician. She’s still very young and the voice is very immature but it will be interesting to see where it goes. There were lots of very competent cameos from the older boys and girls and some solid choral singing. One suspects a lot of really hard work went into making this show happen for which much credit goes to Artistic Director and Conductor Anne Cooper Gay.
The last two performances are today at 2pm and 7.30pm.