Fairy tale romp great fun

Statistics list Seymour Barab's one-act children's opera Little Red Riding Hood as the most performed opera in the United States.

After attending Opera Otago's production in the New Athenaeum Theatre last evening, I can see why.

It was such fun and a great introduction to opera for young people (and the not-so-young), with action up close, and suitably scary in moments when the wolf was in pursuit of Red and her grandmother.

Barab (1921-2014) is best known for fairy tale operas for young audiences and set Red Riding Hood to music in 1963.

Little Red (soprano Erica Paterson) visits her grandmother (mezzo Claire Barton - who always excels in comic roles) but, ignoring advice from her mother, stops to pick strawberries on the way and encounters the scary wolf (baritone Scott Bezett), who is allergic to candy and sweet foods.

Eventually playing out the traditional role of attempting to eat Grandma and Little Red, the wolf is outwitted by threats of desserts and strawberries.

Casting was excellent, with the tall athletic Bezett bouncing about on thick furry legs, always strongly vocal with lines such as ''boys who were delicious and also so nutritious''.

The ensemble vocals were loud, clear and fast-paced, Barton handling a ''patter song'' like the pro she is and the less experienced Paterson matching all with talent and confidence.

Direction was by Bryan Aitken (Christchurch), Judy Bellingham and Marama Grant and musical direction and keyboard accompaniment was by David Burchell.

Costuming (Maryanne Smyth), and minimal props were perfect for the venue, with Grandma's duvet just as one would expect.

Three primary schools have had the opportunity to enjoy the 50-minute drama and music of this production, with Opera Otago taking opera into schools for the first time.

Red Riding Hood plays again tonight at 7pm.

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