My husband is not a regular at the opera and was a bit apprehensive about going to see The Little Prince, but he figured, “Hey, I can sleep at home, or sleep at the opera.” Well, he was surprised! No shut eye for him! He found this Opera captivating, and we were touched by the theme of “the eye cannot see what is truly essential. Only the heart can.”
Our community is so lucky to have the first-class Utah Opera Company on our doorstep, performing at the historic Capitol Theatre, located in THE BLOCKS, Salt Lake’s Cultural Core —an initiative created by the City and County of Salt Lake to promote and develop arts and culture in the downtown area.
The first thing that caught my eye as we entered the Capitol theatre was the use of books on the set. The opera, The Little Prince, by Rachel Portman and Nicholas Wright, comes from a decades-old, well-loved mini-novel by Antoine De Saint-Exupery and we stay in the story and stay in the literal book pages thanks in part to the creative set by Jacob A. Climer (who also designed all of the fabulously clever costumes). In fact, 10,800 square feet of paper are used as book pages for this magnificent set. We start in a library with 18-foot bookshelves lining each side of the proscenium, this is the setting where the storyteller-Pilot tells of his crashing his plane one day and meeting the Little Prince who fell to earth from a distant planet. As we move into the desert in Africa, books and book pages are used as part of the crashed airplane, decoupaged onto the floor, used as steps and are stacked as mini volcanoes. More books and scrunched up pages fill the surround, taking on tree and flower-like expressions. Animated “baobab” trees shoot up around the stage looking like fluttering book pages. A very dramatic moment happens when the Little Prince finally returns to his planet and the stage goes to black with stark white up lights filtering through hundreds of pages of books that float down from the rafters. It is startling, hypnotic and impactful. The closing of the book. The ending of the story.
Stage Director, Tara Faircloth with Conductor, James Lowe, take us to fantasy land and show off the operatic talents of the eight adults in the cast, 39 musicians in the orchestra and 25 children from the Madeleine Choir school of Salt Lake City under the direction of Melanie Malinka.
Jared Bybee and Nitai Fluchel, both newcomers to the Utah Opera Scene, play the Pilot and the Little Prince respectively. The Pilot performs in a beautiful, melancholy baritone and the Prince a lilting boy soprano. It is a great contrast in height, voice, costume, and character. Nitai, as the Little Prince, is perfect. He is ethereal and pensive, full of wonder and wisdom. When he looks at a sunset or listens to his “Rose”, he cocks his golden head to one side and it can’t help but bring a smile. All of the adults in the cast ( except the Pilot) take on multiple roles. This is impressive. Librarians, flowers, a drunkard, a snake, a lamplighter, a businessman, a rose, a fox and even water come to life. The singing and acting are top notch. The Director weaves the children meaningfully throughout. Some of my favorite characters are the King, sung by bass Tyrell Wilde, with his floating 20-foot high throne; the silly fox hunters in their red and black plaid hunting gear and big barrel shotguns and the Vain Man, sung by Joshua Lindsay, in his bright, yellow, plaid suit. Lindsay really interacted with the audience and begged for applause and the kids loved it!
The imaginative lighting design with the melting sunsets and bobbing stars is done by Mark Stanley.
This opera is modern and fresh and is really perfect for a first-time opera audience member. Kids and adults (and my husband) will enjoy this show. Plus the Utah Opera Company features supertitles even when the opera is in English, which really helps. You never have to wonder what is being sung, or how the storyline is moving forward. You can just get lost in the beautiful voices and sweeping orchestrations.
If you have never been to an opera, now’s your chance! Run to The Little Prince, presented by Utah Opera. We were totally entranced by it! And who wouldn’t be? The musical talent, creative scenery, imaginative lighting, and clever costumes will keep anyone’s attention.
The Little Prince runs Jan 21, 23, 25, 27 at the Capitol Theatre, part of The Blocks in downtown SLC. Try it you’ll like it!
Melinda Welch is a lover of music and the theatrical arts in our community.