‘The Magic Fish’ brings fairy tale to life

By From page A7 | December 04, 2013


Pianist Lara Downes will team up with several other artists for "The Magic Fish," a kid-oriented comic opera at 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec 8, in the Mondavi Center's Jackson Hall. Courtesy photo

Check it out

What: “The Magic Fish,”

When: 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 8

Where: Jackson Hall, Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts, UC Davis

Tickets: $30 general, $15 children; www.mondaviarts.org, 530-754-2787

Pianist Lara Downes — whose family concerts have been featured at the Mondavi Center for years — will team up with several other artists for “The Magic Fish,” a child-oriented comic opera, based on a fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm. It will be presented on Sunday, Dec. 8, at the family-friendly hour of 3 p.m. in the Mondavi Center’s Jackson Hall.

Downes told The Enterprise that the annual Family Concert has become “one of my favorite events. It has grown over the years, from its small beginnings as a very home-grown effort into a really wonderful all-out creative exercise that brings together world-class touring artists, the next generation of classical music superstars and our amazing local talent.”

Downes added, “This year, we’re producing the West Coast premiere of a delightful children’s opera written by two local boys made good! Brothers Sunny and Jim Knable, the creators of ‘The Magic Fish,’ are the sons of Rob Knable, a veteran Sacramento music teacher whom I met years ago when I presented a lecture/demonstration for his class at Sacramento City College.

“Raised in a musical household, Sunny and Jim now live and work in New York City, where they are both doing tremendous things in the concert and theater worlds, and it’s a real treat to welcome them back to this area.”

With a nod and a wink, Downes stressed that ” ‘The Magic Fish’ is performed by adults for audiences of children — and well-behaved parents.” And like most fairy tales, the story conveys a bit of a message as well.

The production tells the story of a boy who catches a fish that grants him a magic wish for letting him go. The boy’s parents become greedy when they hear about the fish and start wishing for bigger and bigger things from him — from new shoes to a mansion to a castle — until the fish asks for something in return that the parents can’t possibly give up … or can they?

Narrated by a friendly Otter, who completes the cast of five, this re-imagining of a classic tale is related with warmth, humor and music that is both sophisticated and accessible.

“It’s fun for kids and has a surprising resonance with adults in this era when lots of grown-ups have been getting in trouble for making wishes on fishes,” Downes said.

The lead role in Magic Fish will be played by Daren Jackson, a bass-baritone from the North Carolina School of the Arts who won the Mondavi Center Young Artists Competition last year. Ann Moss, a soprano whom Mondavi Center young audiences may remember from her zany performance in Rob Kapilow’s “Green Eggs and Ham” a couple of years ago, returns to play the part of the Mother.

The rest of the cast is made up of rising young opera stars from the Bay Area: Lauren Woody, Zachary Gordin and Darron Flagg have all won major international awards and have been heard on stages from San Francisco Opera to New York’s Lincoln Center.

“And joining all this exciting talent is the very talented Davis High School Orchestra, led by Angelo Moreno,” Downes said. “In what has become a yearly tradition, the gifted and committed young musicians of the DHSO get a chance to perform a new work in collaboration with a range of nationally prominent fellow musicians, and to represent our exceptional local music scene on the Jackson Hall stage.”

There is another familiar face behind the scenes as well. Mindy Cooper — who directed several projects with Downes, in addition to the UCD theater department’s productions of “Oklahoma” and “Tommy” a few years ago — takes a break from her work on three nationally touring Broadway productions to return to Davis and direct “The Magic Fish.”

Tickets range from $15 for children to $30 for adults and are available at www.mondaviarts.org or 530-754-2787.

Jeff Hudson

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