It’s always a happy occasion when someone creates a new musical experience for children, especially one that mixes fun with the beauty of classical music. This is why I was so pleased to hear that my friend Michael Dutka has composed a new opera for children based on a delightful children’s book of the 1950s, The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge, by Hildegarde H. Swift and Lynd Ward. Even more exciting is the fact that the world premier of the opera will be in New York City in September, within shouting distance of the actual Little Red Lighthouse!
Michael (who also goes by Misha from the years he spent in Russia) asked me to design a poster for his new opera and I’m posting the rough sketch here. The Little Red Lighthouse, officially named ‘Jeffrey’s Hook Lighthouse,’ was erected in 1921 to help with Hudson River boat traffic. Years later the George Washington Bridge was built right over the lighthouse, making it virtually obsolete, and the Coast Guard planned to dismantle the structure until public outcry made them reconsider. The appeals came mainly from children, who loved the book about the sturdy little lighthouse who saves boats during storms, becomes a bit overshadowed by the enormous bridge, and then comes to realize he still has his own special purpose in the world. The uplifting theme of the story is a lovely lesson for kids big and small.
Michael’s music expresses all these emotions in lyrical, appealing moods and motifs, and this will be a terrific way to introduce young children to the musical form of opera. The performance will run about 20 minutes, with free admission, and all lyrics are taken directly from the original children’s book, with special permission from publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. The superb singers who will perform are soprano Lauren Alfano and bass-baritone Daniel Klein. I highly recommend bringing kids to this new opera if you are in New York City on September 26 – the performance will start at 2:30 PM in Fort Washington Park (West 181 St. and Plaza Lafayette, Manhattan), on which land the lighthouse still stands. There will be a Little Red Lighthouse Festival going on that Saturday, so you can also tour the lighthouse and enjoy a lovely day in the park!