ASU brings Halloween show to the stage

The ASU Halloween event offers an original opera adaptation of Ray Bradbury's "The Halloween Tree"

Just in time for Halloween, an ear-catching presentation of “The Halloween Tree” is centerstage at the ASU Kerr Cultural Center.

“The Halloween Tree” is based on Ray Bradbury’s novella of the same name. The opera adaptation was commissioned by the American Lyric Theater (ALT) with librettist Tony Asaro and composer Theo Popov

“It’s quite a big process moving a children's novella on to the operatic stage,” Popov said. “We had to work out a lot of details … figure out the pacing, outline and characters.”

Asaro said the work began in 2013, when Asaro and Popov read the novella. Since 2015,  a workshop has been held around Halloween with a libretto reading and more recently with piano accompaniment.  

“It's wonderful to have this second opportunity to do it with a different cast and with such talented and well-prepared singers,” Popov said. “I’m quite excited by their level of commitment and preparation.”

The show is centered on a group of friends in search of one of their own who has disappeared on the night of Halloween. In their search, they learn about their personal values and gain a new understanding of Halloween. 

 

The ASU School of Music’s Lyric Opera Theatre put on the opera in conjunction with the American Lyric Theater, where Popov and Asaro are partnered. Students studying for their master's degree in opera performance were cast to portray the characters in “The Halloween Tree.”

Brian DeMaris, the artistic director of the Lyric Opera Theatre, said he was interested in student involvement within in-progress pieces. DeMaris and a producer from ALT expressed an interest in using younger voices in the show.

“We’re providing the venue, singers and facilities,” DeMaris said. “ALT is providing all the mentorship and guidance and commission of the piece.” 

The performance will feature an opera reading and music from ASU Chamber Singers, guided under David Schildkret, a professor in the music school.

Popov said ALT focuses on the development of original works. They partner with production companies to bring these shows to the stage, according to their website.   

Asaro said with a live adaptation comes a different “medium of storytelling” that involves different needs and considerations.

“The music, it may sound fun but it’s quite difficult to sing and we could not possibly have kids performing these roles,” Popov said. “So we decided to have young adults who could be much better prepared with the technical difficulties of the scoring.”

Popov said Bradbury's genius was unique in the way he was able to create a work that is an engaging, fantastic adventure while remaining educational. 

"It does confront some darker elements of human nature in a way that kids have found fascinating since the novella was published," he said. 

This coming-of-age opera explores the traditional roots of Halloween and Bradbury’s books, Asaro said. 

“Of the novel and the movie, we as human beings grapple with mortality, and we have rituals around that,” Asaro said. “From those rituals we get this amazing holiday called Halloween.”

The reading of “The Halloween Tree” takes place Sunday, Oct. 29th at ASU Kerr Cultural Center at 6 p.m. Tickets are $8 and available at music.asu.edu/lot, or calling the box office at 480-596-2660. 


 Reach the reporter at mnguzma2@asu.edu and follow @sirmynameisnoah on Twitter. 

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