New children’s opera engages & entertains whole family

Lyric’s children’s opera, Earth to Kenzie, premieres its family performances this weekend at Vittum Theater (1012 N Noble St in Chicago) — and we can guarantee that it is a must-see for families this fall.  Tickets are on sale now for the performances taking place on Saturday, November 9 at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. and on Sunday, November 10 at 3 p.m.

The opera tells the story of a fifth-grader named Kenzie who returns to school after winter break with the assignment to write an essay: “what I did over break.” Kenzie spent her time away from school moving into a family shelter with her mother after a developer bought their apartment building. Dealing with frustration and uncertainty, Kenzie escapes into the vibrant world of video games with Edwin ⁠— her video game Avatar, main confidant and virtual representation of all she wishes she could be (blue and pink mohawk and all). Through their space missions and out-of-this-world adventures, Kenzie gains confidence in the classroom and realizes that home is not a place, but rather wherever she is with her mother and the ones she loves. Not only does this opera mirror a reality for many Chicago kids with themes of housing insecurity and classroom struggles, it also shows real life for kids through the compassionate relationship of Kenzie and her mother, and through the fun Kenzie sparks with her imagination and intellect in the world of video games. In the opera, Kenzie finds herself at the intersection of technology and creativity, building a virtual life filled with space kitties and rocketships, and discovers that life with her mother, her classmates and her newfound friend is where she really wants to be. 

Other than hitting on poignant themes and life lessons, you might be asking yourself what actually goes into making an opera for kids? And more importantly, how does Lyric create the same magic that our main stage patrons experience every time they step into the Lyric Opera House at a scale accessible to kids? Meet librettist Jessica Murphy Moo and composer Frances Pollock as they explain what makes the story, music and design of Earth to Kenzie so special and why you should take your family to see this exciting, brand-new production. 

This story is really about Kenzie dealing with her worries, figuring out how she’s going to get through this moment in her life, and who is going to help her get through. 

- Jessica Murphy Moo

The Story of Earth to Kenzie
The reason that you make a story an opera is because when you tell a story in only words, you never know if the characters actually mean what they say. But in opera, you can never lie. The music always tells the truth.

- Frances Pollock

The Music of Earth to Kenzie

Aside from magic, creativity, and catchy melodies, Lyric also touches on an aspect of Chicago life often not depicted on stage. Not only is the theme of housing insecurity a very real part of Kenzie’s life, it is also very true of many Chicagoans’. The Chicago Tribune recently published a startling article with data from the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless revealing that in the 2018/19 school year, 16,450 Chicago Public School students did not have a permanent home. Child housing insecurity stares Chicagoans in the face each day, some times producing situations with health and development risks. Earth to Kenzie shows kids some of the tools and relationships that Kenzie utilizes to get through a tough time, and encourages kids to create their own destiny— creatively and literally. 

EARTH TO KENZIE

How far can your imagination take you?

Major support provided by the Nancy W. Knowles Student and Family Performances Fund.

Earth to Kenzie and Opera in the Neighborhoods are supported by Lead Sponsor J. Christopher and Anne N. Reyes and cosponsors an Anonymous Donor, Sasha Gerritson and Eugene JarvisRobert and Evelyn McCullen, The Jane Wilson and David Mayhew Stone Charitable TrustRoberta L. and Robert J. Washlow, and Wintrust Community Banks.

Lyric Unlimited Chicago Public Schools Bus Scholarships are supported by the U.S. Bank Foundation.

Photos: Kyle Flubacker