Mo Willems' hilarious picture book "Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!" celebrated its 20th anniversary recently. In honor of this milestone, Willems and renowned opera singer Renée Fleming collaborated to transform the story into a comedic family-friendly opera at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Willems, who initially had no experience with opera, discovered that both opera and picture books center around powerful emotions. The opera, titled "The Ice Cream Truck Is Broken! & Other Emotional Arias," debuted to an audience that was encouraged to actively participate in the performance. By breaking some of the conventional norms of classical music, and making people laugh, Willems and Fleming aimed to make the opera more accessible and enjoyable for attendees of all ages.
This wonderful NPR interview with Willems and Fleming is definitely worth a listen.
Feel the joy of playing with 10,000 puppies through the music of Verdi, the despair of not having ice cream through Leoncavallo, and the anger and frustration of not being able to ride a bike through Mozart. And—as a special bonus for the evening—enjoy a world premiere performance of the new WNO commission, Don't Let the Pigeon Sing Up Late!, composed by Kennedy Center Composer-in-Residence Carlos Simon and featuring The Pigeon's dramatic operatic debut.