If you're like most people, you thought Philip Glass only composed one piece of music for children: "Happy, Non-offensive, Non-denominational Christmas Play No. 1," which premiered in 1997 at South Park Elementary.
As the New York Times reports today, however, the groundwork for that seminal composition was laid a couple of years earlier, in a little-known theater called La Scala. It was there, in the backwoods burg of Milan, Italy, in 1995, that Glass created a ballet-opera for children called The Witches of Venice. The humorous, easy-to-follow story of darling, neglected Plant Boy, who lives in the royal garden with all his magical friends, is extremely radical from a Glassian perspective: it has a melody, and even a plot.
A 70-minute CD version was just released with an accompanying story book [the opera was based on a 1989 book by Beni Montresor]. The hapless Amazon reviewer says, "The target audience will need caregivers to read the book and translate the songs," which just means his kid can't operate a CD player by himself and doesn't already speak Italian. He might as well say, "Woo-hoo! My kid's going to state college!" and be done with it.
Buy The Witches of Venice Book/CD by Philip Glass & Beni Montresor [amazon via nyt]
BuySouth Park - The Complete First Season [amazon]