El gato con botas
I just attended a charming morning opera for children at the Liceu, El Gato con Botas (Puss in Boots) by Xavier Montsalvatge, who died in 2002 at the age of 90. His friend and contemporary, Nestor Lujan, wrote the libretto from the old fairytale by Charles Perrault. Oddly enough, it never grabbed me as a child, but I think this presentation would be hard for any youngster to resist. And judging from the total silence throughout the performance, they must all have been mesmerised.
The presentation was a coproduction of four Spanish opera groups: Madrid, Bilbao, Oviedo and Barcelona and was part of the ongoing simplified, colourful programme to draw children in and make them future adult opera-goers. The house was pretty full, the audience about half children, though there was a surprising number of gaggles of grandmas with no kids in tow. No whispering or coughing or crackling of paper (I think the only exception was the couple sitting next to me whose rather large young son sat on a lap and asked questions that were answered in a loud sottovoce all the way through). Not the way to train your child to be respectful audience members, Mum and Dad!
Costumes and scenery were by the famous, colour-crazed, distinctly flower-childlike Spanish clothes designer, Agatha Ruiz de la Prada. An ideal choice for a children's opera.
The music was pleasant, the singing very fine, if not particularly stellar. The acting and mime were just what was needed, as was the ballet. The four unbroken acts were spelled out in large letters at the side of the stage, so we knew we were at the Palacio del Re, etc. The story, which you may or may not remember, is the typical fairytale in which a poor peasant boy ends up conquering the ogre and marrying the king's daughter; in this case with the help of the booted cat (Marisa Martins), who both sang and writhed very attractively.
The entire peformance lasts one hour and 15 minutes, ideal for a young audience. There are two more performances, at 11am on Saturday 26th and Sunday 27th of May. At €18, it is a ticket well worth buying. The Liceu should be warmly thanked for working so hard to encourage the next generation to become familiar with opera.