In the fall of 2011, I was approached by Kim Carballo, Director of Reimagining Opera for Kids, to write a new opera for the following season. Reimagining Opera for Kids (ROK) is a small troupe comprised of singers and instrumentalists of the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music who travel to area schools and libraries to bring opera to children, for free. What a great reason to write a piece, and what an exciting project! We were very lucky to bring in the eminent writer Scott Russell Sanders as our librettist. We decided to base the libretto on his novel, The Engineer of Beasts. The opera was to be 30 minutes long, which is just the right length to hold the attention of young children, and so Scott used elements of his book to create a libretto of appropriate length. In a surprisingly short period of time he delivered a libretto to me which was clever, funny, charming, and also touching -- the perfect libretto for our project! His rhyming verse was so musical itself, setting it to music was a real pleasure.

I completed the piano/vocal score the next June and the orchestration by early August 2012, just weeks before the first rehearsal. By the end of their 2012-2013 season, ROK had presented the opera over 30 times, with performances in Indiana and Missouri. For the premiere production, the director was Sara Radke, and the set and incredibly clever costumes were created by Vanessa Cantrell.

The opera takes place in a zoo of robot "animals" in a dome-covered city that is part of a worldwide network of such cities, connected by travel tubes, sealed off from the outside. The time is late twenty-first century, after human beings, afraid of the wilds, have moved indoors. Full Synopsis.