Music Director Isaac Young will play the piano scores of
Little Red Riding Hood
Little Red Light House and the Great Gray Bridge
Isaac Young may strike you as, well, young! But don't be fooled. The 24-year-old has 10 years of conducting, piano accompaniment and musical direction under his belt.
As he takes the helm for DVOC's double bill of children's operas based on children's literature, The Little Red Light House and the Great Gray Bridge, and Little Red Riding Hood, we thought it would be fun to learn a bit about Isaac's musical journey from child musician to Music Director, and his take on children's opera:
Why is it important to have opera written for children?
I have often found that there is a negative stigma amongst the general public when it comes to the term "opera." Many people I have discussed the topic with associate it with annoyingly dramatic voices and extremely long, heavy works that are portrayed as boring and lifeless, which could not be further from the truth. However despite this stigma, when I have spoken to someone who has seen a live opera they remember the experience fondly with deep reverence nearly every time. Operas can be about anything and are amongst the most compelling and exciting way to tell stories. This is why I believe it is important to have operas written for children such as the two we are presenting this November. Many children will have grown up with the stories The Little Red Lighthouse, and Little Red Riding Hood as they are popular children's tales. However, I truly believe that making the stories come alive through music, theatre, and drama will present these tales and capture the attention of children even more than simply re-telling aurally.
What was the first live staged show you remember seeing?
I grew up in a very musical family including both my immediate and extended. My cousins lived in a more rural area in western Wisconsin and their high school would present fully staged musicals that basically the entire school and community would support. I believe I was no older than four or five when I saw them present Oklahoma, The Sound of Music, and the King and I, which were in my first set of memories and I recall them being very well done. Most of my live experiences were attending or performing/directing high school and community theatre productions. It wasn't until I believe April of 2012 that I saw my first staged opera which was La Traviata and to be honest with you it didn't really grab me. It wasn't until a couple years later that I truly fell in love with opera.
Did you put on shows of your own as a child? Do any stand out in your memory?
I was never trained in theatre to say the least but yes, I was involved in shows all the time since I was probably about six or seven. My family was very involved in the church and my mother was talented as a community theatre director so she would head the drama productions through our church particularly around Christmas, Easter, and summer. Being the son of the director I was thrown into whatever spot was needed or which ones none of the other participants wanted which was often the lead role....even though I had no clue what I was doing I guess you can say I learned a lot. Over time as I got more involved musically with more serious productions, I much prefer to stay below the stage or in directorial roles. I would say my acting skills are "remedial" at best, so I'll leave that to the pros!
So many stories written for children have very dark moments or themes. Why do you think that is?
Coincidentally, we addressed this very topic with a French avant-garde opera I directed last summer called "Pacamambo" which is a children's opera dealing with a child's perspective on death and the afterlife. We as a cast and crew discussed this thoroughly both amongst ourselves and in our panel discussions and my take on the topic of darkness and depth being introduced at a young age is crucial for kids to begin developing an understanding of the world around us. Perhaps the most important aspect in my opinion is to encourage open discussion with children at their discretion when they feel ready on such topics. Children often have such curiosity and inquisition about the world and being able to open up and see all of the world the good, bad, and ugly is important which I think stories with darker themes can instigate such discussion. As long as the children aren't traumatized or disturbed by such themes which I would imagine would be up the discretion of the parents, there is a lot they can grasp on such depth which is one reason why I believe many authors embed such concepts into stories directed at children.
What was your favorite story as a child?
There are so many, I loved stories as a child, and still do. I had a pretty eclectic taste as a child, I enjoyed Norse and Greek mythology, pretty anything by Hans Christian Anderson, Biblical stories, and many stories adapted by Disney. However, if I had to pick I would say probably the Iliad and the Odyssey by Homer. I remember reading a children's version when I was maybe around eight and being utterly fascinated by it and tried to read the full unabridged which didn't go well, obviously. I eventually did read the full version when I was in college and still enjoyed it just as much as I did then.