Fantasy, song, and spectacle blend for 'The Three Feathers,' a new musical work for children
“The Three Feathers,” a new children’s opera commissioned by the Center for the Arts at Virginia Tech from composer Lori Laitman, will make its world premiere on the Virginia Tech campus with four performances — on Friday Oct. 17 at 7:30 p.m., Saturday Oct. 18 at 2 and 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, Oct. 19 at 2 p.m.
The performances will be held in the Anne and Ellen Fife Theatre, located within the Moss Arts Center’s Street and Davis Performance Hall at 190 Alumni Mall.
The one-act opera is based on a Grimm’s fairytale of the same name and is retold by librettist and poet Dana Gioia, who is also a former chair of the National Endowment of the Arts.
“The Three Feathers” takes place in a mysterious world inhabited by a king, his three princess daughters, and courtiers. The story will take audiences of all ages on a journey of song and spectacle, through the fantastical underworld kingdom of the Frog Prince and his chorus of rats, bats, and frogs.
Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm were German academics, linguists, cultural researchers, and authors who together collected and published a series of folk tales for both children and adults. Among their most popular stories are “Cinderella,” “Hansel and Gretel,” and “Snow White.”
“The Three Feathers” appeared in their first book and is one of their earliest stories.
“The Three Feathers” cast is composed of more than 20 Virginia Tech students and recent graduates, with majors ranging from environmental horticulture and chemical engineering to vocal performance and music education. Local elementary and middle school students from the Blacksburg Children’s Chorale form the magical underworld chorus. Area musicians and Virginia Tech faculty members and students comprise the orchestra for the performances, while the production crew is made up almost entirely of Virginia Tech students.
An American composer of vocal music, Laitman’s works set the words of classic and contemporary English-language poets to music. She has composed over 250 songs, including three operas, one oratorio, and choral works.
Gioia is an internationally acclaimed poet, critic, and literary anthologist, who has authored four collections of poetry, three collections of criticism, and edited or co-edited over two dozen collections of poetry, fiction, and drama. He has also written three opera libretti and has collaborated with composers in genres ranging from classical to jazz and rock.
Other members of the creative team include director Beth Greenberg, who is known for her work with the New York City Opera; flight director/dance choreographer Cara Rawlings, associate professor of movement in acting in Virginia Tech’s Department of Theatre and Cinema; lighting designer John Ambrosone, associate professor and director of the Master of Fine Arts lighting design program at Virginia Tech; costume designer Jane Alois Stein, assistant professor and director of Virginia Tech’s Master of Fine Arts costume design and technology program; projection designer Joan Grossman, a media artist, producer, and scholar, who has served as a visiting artist and professor at Virginia Tech; and music director and conductor Scott Williamson, artistic director of Opera Roanoke.
The performances coincide with the three-day celebration to commemorate the installation of Virginia Tech's 16th president, Timothy D. Sands.
Laitman and Gioia will discuss their creative collaboration and the process of developing “The Three Feathers” on Wednesday, Oct. 15 at 5:30 p.m. in the Moss Arts Center’s Anne and Ellen Fife Theatre. The artist talk, which is free and open to the public, will be moderated by Richard Masters, soloist, opera coach, chamber musician, orchestral pianist, and instructor in Virginia Tech’s School of Performing Arts.
The opera’s commission was made possible in part by a grant from the Virginia Commission for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Tickets are $15 for general admission and $10 for students and youth 18 years old and under. Tickets can be purchased online; at the Moss Arts Center's box office, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday; or by calling 540-231-5300.
Parking is available in the North End Parking Garage on Turner Street. Virginia Tech faculty and staff possessing a valid Virginia Tech parking permit can enter and exit the garage free of charge. Limited street parking is also available. Parking on Alumni Mall is free on weekdays after 5 p.m. and on weekends.