Little Red Riding Hood, the most performed children’s opera in the world, is a superb introductory opera for young audiences and a natural vehicle for exploration of literature, language and the arts. The 50-minute opera, sung in English, was written in 1963 by prolific children’s opera composer Seymour Barab.
In the course of the familiar story, Little Red learns valuable lessons about the dangers of straying from the path, value of family relationships, and the power of words. Children of all ages will enjoy the informal setting where kids can sit right up close to the action.
|Music and Libretto||Seymour Barab|
|Music Director||Joel Goodloe|
|Scenic Design||Dahlia Al-Habieli|
|Costume Design||Elizabeth Rishel|
|Assistant Stage Manager|
Little Red Riding Hood is sung in English.
Running time: approximately 45 minutes with no intermission.
Photos by Mark Abramowitz
Once upon a time there was a young girl who lived near the woods with her Mother named Little Red Riding Hood. One day, Little Red’s Grandmother telephones to say she is ill and asks to be brought some food by Little Red's Mother. Little Red begs to go herself, promising to be back by dark, not to pick any strawberries and not to talk to strangers. Along the way, she meets a stranger (The Wolf) who tricks Little Red into giving him directions to Grandmother’s house. While Little Red Riding Hood stops to pick strawberries, the Wolf runs ahead to the Grandmother’s house.
As Grandmother sings on and on about her trials and tribulations, she is suddenly interrupted by a knock at the door. Thinking it’s Little Red Riding Hood, Grandmother opens the door to let her in and is surprised by the Wolf. He tries to eat her, but Grandmother locks herself in the closet. The Wolf pleads with her to come out, but Grandmother refuses.
Soon after, Little Red Riding Hood arrives with the strawberries and other food. The Wolf puts on Grandmother’s cap and jumps into bed pretending to be the Grandmother. Little Red, at first, believes that the Wolf IS her Grandmother, thinking that the illness has made her Grandmother’s voice change. She is further concerned that Grandmother’s eyes have changed from brown to blue. And, she is surprised to see how furry and pointed and BIG her Grandmother’s ears have grown. And when Little Red remarks on her Grandmother’s teeth, the Wolf jumps out of bed, losing his disguise as Grandmother.
Little Red screams and she tries to escape and runs around and around the room. Suddenly Little Red remembers that the Wolf cannot stand to even talk about sweets, much less eat them, and so she starts listing all her favorite desserts. The Wolf runs out of Grandmother’s cottage screaming. Realizing that he has been foiled again and is locked outside of the cottage, the Wolf begins to pound on and kick the door. Little Red and Grandmother are worried that the Wolf will be able to break the door down and get in. Then Little Red Riding Hood sees a Woodsman through the window. Little Red and Grandmother shout for the Woodsman to catch the Wolf. The Woodsman chases after the Wolf and finishes him off. Little Red, Grandmother, and the Woodsman all sing together about what they have learned.
Meet the Composer
[born Chicago, 9 January 1921; died New York, 28 June 2014]
Seymour Barab was an American composer of opera, songs, instrumental, and chamber music, as well as a cellist, organist, and pianist. He was known for his fairy tale operas for young audiences, such as Chanticleer and Little Red Riding Hood. He was a longtime member of the Philip Glass Ensemble.
When Barab was thirteen he started his first musical job as an organist for a church of spiritual healing that his aunt attended. According to Barab, “… I played just about well enough so that when this pastor of the church asked my aunt, who she knew was a little bit of a musician, if she knew anybody who could do soft organ playing, she recommended me.” After finishing high school, Seymour Barab entered the music field as a professional cellist.
During World War II, Barab joined the Navy as musician and was stationed in the Philadelphia Navy Yard. While there, he learned to play clarinet so he could play with the military band. After World War II, Barab moved to New York City where he eventually took up permanent residence for the remainder of his life, after time in Portland, Oregon and in Paris. While in Paris, Barab worked with Rene Liebowitz as a recording producer, and together they recorded operas and symphonies.
In the mid fifties, Barab began to dabble in opera composition. He began collaborating with Mary Caroline Richards as a librettist on an opera that would eventually become his first opera Chanticleer. Chanticleer premiered in Aspen on August 4, 1956 and was met with favorable reviews and much success. In January 1957, Barab’s second opera, A Game of Chance, with libretto by E. Manacher premiered in Rock Island, Illinois and was also received well by the public. Both Chanticleer and A Game of Chance are two of Barab’s most performed operas, but his most famous opera was not written until the early sixties.
Little Red Riding Hood is not only Barab’s most performed opera, but it is the most often performed opera by an American composer. In addition, Little Red Riding Hood paved the way for more of Seymour Barab’s fairy-tale and children’s operas for which he is most well known. Barab started working on the opera after Winifred Leventritt requested him to compose an opera that would be suitable for an audience of children in her program called “Young Audiences” which toured around public schools. Barab recalled meeting with Leventritt to discuss possible subject matter for the opera, saying “…She just flippantly said, ‘Oh any story will do… [how about] Little Red Riding Hood’ and I thought, my God, is it really that simple?” The libretto for Little Red Riding Hood is the first libretto that Barab wrote himself. Barab does an amazing job of catering to the minds of children by providing a prologue, in which the singer playing the part of the wolf gets his make up done on stage in front of the audience, allowing the children to see the transformation to reassure the children that the wolf is really just a man in costume. This sensitivity to young audiences prevails in his other fairy-tale operas, as well, with Barab cutting out the violence, and sometimes tweaking the story to drive home the moral point.
The early 1970s proved to be quite eventful for Seymour Barab: his full-length opera Phillip Marshall was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. Barab continued to be an active composer until his death on June 28, 2014, composing operas, songs, instrumental works, and innovative narrated instrumental works. In 1998 he was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Opera Association.
Download Opera Theater's Little Red Riding Hood Study Guide to learn more about Little Red Riding Hood—filled with lots of fun activities for kids. Makes a great tool to use before or after a visit to the opera.