The Easter Turkey arrived at the Terrace Theater last night. For the opening festivities of the Kennedy Center's Imagination Celebration, the Texas Opera Theatre gave the world premiere of "Starbird," an opera for children by Henry Mollicone. It was not fun.
The libretto by Kate Pogue tells of a dog, a cat and a donkey who meet by chance in Central Park and begin to kibitz about each other's shortcomings. Later, a spaceship lands and, in spite of warnings from a lame-laden creature called the Starbird, they get too close and are kidnapped by two robots. The action switches to somewhere in the sky -- in a nice change of M.W. Kelin's sets -- as the three animals realize that what they thought were their individual flaws can be turned into strengths. They trick the robots and regain their freedom.
After this, I lost track of the plot, but I think the animals decide not to accept an invitation to live in outer space glamor with Starbird. Instead, they opt to live in Central Park, an idea that might seem appealing to Texans. After accosting a poor jogger, the three live happily ever after.
The music recalled Billy Goldenberg's work for television, as well as "King of Hearts" and other failed Broadway shows. The title role, sung with silvery brightness by soprano Kathryn Wright, had much coloratura a la Strauss via Pasatieri. Elsewhere, there were touches of blues, nice rhythm and mostly negligible material.
The young cast was uniformly above the music, and if they were not understood much of the time is was because the vocal lines sounded as if they had been set uncomforably in translation. And besides, the children chatted through most of the hour, not being exactly spellbound by the premiere.
Any wish to be kinder to this forgettable work on the grounds that it is only for children is quickly dispelled when one remembers what else has been done in that field. As a matter of fact, any child who saw Wolf Trap's "Hansel and Gretel" or the Prince George's Opera's premier of Ben Miller's "Ben" Knows better.
"Starbird" will be repeated twice today, and again on Wednesday evening.