It’s time for another installment of… SUGGESTED LISTENING for the CLASSICAL MUSIC SKEPTIC! I think you’ll enjoy Green Eggs and Ham, an opera by Robert Kapilow, performed below by the New Jersey Chamber Music Society with Angelina Réaux, soprano, and Brett Tabisel, boy soprano.
About the Composer:
Rob Kapilow (1952- ) is kind of pretty much totally awesome. He holds degrees from Yale University and the Eastman School of Music (yay!), and spent time studying composition with none other than Nadia Boulanger, who taught some extremely famous composers including Aaron Copland, Ástor Piazzolla, Elliott Carter, and Philip Glass. Kapilow is an accomplished pianist, and as a conductor has worked on Broadway and with such great orchestras as Philadelphia and Toronto. He hosts the NPR program What Makes It Great (check it out here — you’ll love it), in which he “takes listeners inside the music: he unravels, slows down, and recomposes key passages to hear why a piece is so extraordinary.” His lively personality and comedic delivery make him the perfect guy to share classical music with kids — and that is exactly what he does. Nicknamed the “Pied Piper of classical music” and even “a kind of Bill Nye the Science Guy for classical music,” Kapilow presents an innovative program called FamilyMusik that entertains, educates, and enthralls young audiences in the same way Leonard Bernstein did with his Young People’s Concerts. Many of Kapilow’s own compositions are geared towards children…including today’s Suggested Listening selection.
About the Piece:
The libretto (text) for Kapilow’s opera Green Eggs and Ham comes, of course, from Dr. Seuss’ book by the same name. Dr. Seuss, the brilliant author of nonsensical books for children, wrote Green Eggs and Ham in response to a bet: Seuss’ publisher swore the writer couldn’t come up with a text that used no more than fifty different words, so Seuss set out to prove him wrong. Kapilow was granted the rights to Green Eggs and Ham by the Seuss estate and quickly got to work setting the words to music. Seuss’ text, with its syllabic simplicity and clear-cut rhyme scheme, lends itself well to being sung. The great thing about Kapilow’s score is that, although geared towards a young audience, it is a legitimate, mature composition. The music isn’t at all dumbed down for kids — rather, it’s American modernism at its finest, with all the tumbling woodwind colors, jazz influence, and overarching air of absurdity that one might find in “grown up” compositions by, say, Stravinsky or Milhaud. As the vocalists’ dialogue reveals the story of Sam-I-Am and his grouchy companion, the enthusiastic orchestra underscores all the hijinks, silliness, and fun surrounding the strangest, most beloved breakfast food ever imagined.
If you enjoyed Green Eggs and Ham, you might also like…
- Igor Stravinsky: L’Histoire du Soldat
- Bohuslav Martinů: Allegretto from Nonet No. 2
- Darius Milhaud: La création du monde