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The Trio of Minuet
NUVO, May 14, 2003

Children’s opera goes on mission to locate music
The Indianapolis Star, May 11, 2003

Children's Choir to Perform Opera
WISHTV.com, May 9, 2003

Imagine that!
NUVO, May 7, 2003

Indianapolis Children’s Choir goes operatic
The Indianapolis Star, May 4, 2003

May 14, 2003
The Trio of Minuet
Rita Kohn, NUVO

4 of 5 stars
Sterling collaboration between organizations and individuals places into the canon a new opera about, with and for children (and adults for whom childhood is part of being. The May 10 premiere of their first such work pleased composer David Sasso, lyricist Paul Goyette and an enthusiastic audience beyond expectations. Members of the Indianapolis Children's Choir and Indianapolis Youth Chorale are trained to file in, stand still and sing front and center. Michelle Jarvis' imaginative choreography and directorial skills turned some 170 singers-only into stageworthy dancers and actors. They cavorted, cartwheeled, shimmied, congoed and generally projected a rollicking good time, romping across centuries of musical forms and styles. Seventeen members of the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra under Maestro Henry Leck moved with assurance through a sophisticated, daring score that envelops the airy, exuberant lyrics. This fantasy, in the tradition of Oz, winks at realism, ably aided by splendidly seductive lighting, an engaging set and absolutely amazing costumes, especially Susie who comes alive through Moriah Justin, Sara Pritchett and Toure Scott. James Patton, as Dervish the Dance Instructor, high-kicked to performance into wakefulness. Nadia Robinson, Daniel White and Mindy Meurer infused the leading roles with sensitivity and delight. A work-in-progress, as it continues to develop, The Trio of Minuet is a worthy tribute to the memory of Max Simon, a seeker and synthesizer who inspired others through his poetry, spirituality and dedication to building community.

May 11, 2003
Children’s opera goes on mission to locate music
Whitney Smith, The Indianapolis Star

3 of 4 stars
     For the second time this spring, Clowes Hall has been transformed into something of a garden where a new arts event blossomed.
     In late April, Butler Ballet presented “The Willow Maiden,” complete with fantasy adventure story, new choreography and original score. This weekend, the Indianapolis Children’s Choir launched “The Trio of Minuet,” another fantasy adventure starring three youngsters on a mission to find music. It closes tonight.
     “Welcome to Minuet. Watch us leap and pirouette,” sang the residents of a mythical town, where the primary form of expression is dance, and music is forbidden.
     It’s odd, listening to selection after selection sung by singers who claim not to allow music into their lives. But Minuet’s lack of music is the very premise that propels three friends, Madolyn, Wesley and Doh, on a “Wizard of Oz”-style adventure. They’re after music to soothe a savage beast that seems to be threatening their hometown. En route, they discover how to appreciate cultures other than their own.
     With a title derived from an antiquated dance form, “The Trio of Minuet” sounds as if the music might be ancient as well. But David Sasso’s score and Paul Goyette’s libretto refer to dance forms all the way from the Renaissance to conga lines. Musically, the show sounds less like grand opera than musical theater, with styles vaguely reminiscent of Sondheim, “Les Miserables,” even Gilbert and Sullivan. It was amusing, listening for certain sounds and styles Sasso assigned to scenes or characters.
     Madolyn, Wesley and Doh set out on their quest against Peter Dean Beck’s enchanted painted backdrops of a quaint town and leafy forests. They encounter a host of creatures bedecked in fanciful costumes by Galina Solovyeva, who also designs for Ballet Internationale.
     Among the characters are Seemore and Melodia, musically inclined outcasts rejected by Minuet; forest creatures, including a scampering squirrel and Susie the monster; plus communities of choristers who live to eat, sleep or tell jokes.
     The cast of Children’s Choir singers past and present numbered about 175, with the three friends as most prominent. Nadia Robinson gave Madolyn a bossy older sister’s demeanor, while Mindy Meurer’s Doh was equally melodious and suitably animated. Daniel White gave Wesley a quizzical quality, holding his own vocally despite some late entrances.
     As the Babysitter in the Chorus of Sleepers, Danielle Hurt took on a maternal nature and sang a sublime lullaby. As the Chef who served the Chorus of Eaters, James Neff sang out in a fine, strong tenor. Stephanie Harris and Eric Carter made the quibbling Melodia and Seemore wonderfully quirky.
     Round out the cast were characters who included Jessica Finchum as Minuet’s cheerfully authoritative Mayor Moyra, James Patton’s mannered Dervish the dance instructore, Amanda Fletcher’s formal Philomena the Philosopher, and Michael Flanigan, Emily Loeb and Leela Rothenberg as three fun singing turnips.

May 4, 2003
Indianapolis Children’s Choir goes operatic
Whitney Smith, The Indianapolis Star

     It may sound like something from the days of powdered wigs, but “The Trio of Minuet” couldn’t be more contemporary.
     A colorful fantasy story with a moral, “The Trio of Minuet” is a new full-length children’s opera that tells of three young adventurers who grow up in an anti-music community, then set out to discover what they’ve been missing.
     “Minuet” takes its name from a mythical town that communicates through dance, yet frowns on music. The opera was created by two men who live in Illinois, but grew up in Indianapolis.
     The composer, David Sasso, is an Indianapolis Children’s Choir alumnus studying medicine at Northwestern University. The librettist, Paul Goyette, once sang in Christ Church Cathedral’s Choir of Men and Boys, and is in graduate school at the University of Chicago.
     Their brainchild will be premiered on Saturday and May 11 at Clowes Hall by no fewer than 177 current and former Children’s Choir members.
     While it may look flawless if all goes well, making an opera from scratch is an exacting task.
     “It’s very brave, to tell you the truth,” said James Caraher, Indianapolis Opera’s artistic director, who was involved in the premiere of “Rosina,” a Hiram Titus sequel to the operas “The Barber of Seville” and “The Marriage of Figaro” at Minnesota Opera in the 1980s.
     “Probably the bottom line is the expense,” Caraher said. “It’s not just expensive to do, but the process takes so much longer (than standards) – everything from copying parts to having readings to make sure everything is correct, to rehearsals and rewrites. It’s never as straightforward as even the best-laid plans.”
     Maria Levy, opera and ballet administrator for the Indiana University School of Music in Bloomington, said, “We just did the premiere of a new English-language version of ‘Jeppe,’ and we found there were many challenges. There was the matter of getting the librettos and music and orchestra parts on time – all things we automatically take for granted. Then sometimes the pieces aren’t finished.
     “In the case of ‘Jeppe,’ we didn’t have an English translation for a while, and there were a lot of changes being done, because the composer happens to be on our faculty. That’s all part of the creative process, and it is quite different from repeating an existing opera.”
     So far, none of this has stopped the Children’s Choir, which obtained underwriting from the Max Simon Foundation. Nor has it stymied the creative team for Sasso and Goyette.
     If Sasso’s name sounds familiar, that may be because his parents, Dennis and Sandy Sasso, are longtime rabbis at Indianapolis’ Congregation Beth-El Zedeck, and have written opinion pieces for this newspaper.
     Twenty-six-year-old David Sasso has written a few things of his own, including settings of William Blake and Robert Frost poetry, all sung by the Children’s Choir and later published. Although Sasso aspires to a career in psychiatry, his undergraduate education embraced music and science. He has bachelor’s degrees in biochemistry and music from Indiana University, where he and Goyette met.
     “Writing a children’s opera was something I thought about ever since I graduated from college,” Sasso said. After continuing with his education and taking some time off, he found that “the idea of writing a large-scale piece for kids had been brewing for a while.”
     Sasso, a founding member of the Indianapolis Children’s Choir back in 1986, continues to nurture an affection for the roughly 1,400-member, world-traveling Indianapolis choral group.
     “I know kind of what the Children’s Choir sounds like,” he said, “so I knew what they are capable of. They might tell you in books not to write below a certain note for an alto, but I know that the Children’s Choir altos can sing lower and still have a nice tone.”
     Goyette and Sasso came up with the plot together for “The Trio of Minuet,” which centers on three children, Madolyn, Wesley and Doh, being portrayed by Nadia Robinson, Daniel White and Mindy Meurer.
     “The three children basically come from a town where the people are very straight, and they don’t sing,” Sasso said. “These kids have a little spark of adventure to them, and get into trouble.
     “Madolyn, the oldest, is calm and collected and more responsible. Wesley is pensive and thoughtful and a little out to lunch. He’s slow to catch on. Doh is the youngest, and she’s supposed to be the young firecracker. It’s noticed in her music. She’s really very excitable.”
     Eventually, the trio discovers music, with help from an old couple, Seemore (Eric Carter) and Melodia (Stephanie Harris), who teach them how to translate dance into song.
     This proves helpful when the children encounter Susie, a silent but threatening creature who looks like a warthog, but can be soothed by music.
     “I guess one of the points,” Sasso said, “is to teach tolerance, and the importance of learning new things.”

May 9, 2003
Children's Choir to Perform Opera

The nationally recognized Indianapolis Children's Choir will perform for President Bush Tuesday at the Pepsi Coliseum. But first, the young singers have a big weekend ahead as they perform this city's first professional children's opera.

On Saturday and Sunday at Butler University, the voices of 177 children will fill Clowes Memorial Hall. The Indianapolis Children?s Choir will perform the Trio of Minuet, which is about three children who live in a silent town called Minuet. They go in search of music.

David Sasso is taking a brief leave from medical school to see his dream come alive. He composed the music and Paul Goyette, a public policy student and librettist, wrote the text.

It's been incredible to watch each piece get added. There's so many people involved in a production like this," said Goyette.

A favorite character will be Susie the scary monster who turns out not to be so scary after all.

While it's all very calm and controlled on stage, back stage can be quite a different thing, especially during a difficult costume change. The $100,000 worth of elegant costumes were made in Russia. The production was funded by the Max Simon Foundation in memory of mall mogul Mel Simon's deceased son.

The children have spent long hours since January preparing. "The only reason why it wasn't hard is because we were enjoying it at the same time," said Jessica Finchum, choir member.

"Originally, when I looked at the score, I was just like, how am I going to learn all this? But there was a lot of support," said Nadia Robinson, choir member.

May 7, 2003
Imagine that!
Rita Kohn, NUVO

     Composer David Sasso and Librettist Paul Goyette are like kids in a toy shop with the promise of "it's all yours" as they watch and listen to their opera take on a life of its own.
     The Trio of Minuet, featuring current and former Indianapolis Children's Choir choristers, premieres May 10 and 11 at 7:30 p.m. at Clowes Memorial Hall with maestro Henry Leck conducting the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra. With generous support from the Max Simon Foundation, it's a top-of-the-line premiere.
     The sumptious costumes designed by Galina Solovyeva and built in Russia are as meticulous for the supporting cast of 159 as for the 19 leading roles. Peter Dean Beck's set creates an ever-changing landscape as three children wander into the forbidden woods surrounding their dance-only town. Aptly named Minuet, this is a place where vocal music is forbidden.
     Sasso and Goyette proceed to explain that a music-less start for an opera is a valid concept. It initiates a quest as three young heroes come upon other little towns where music abounds, but with a catch. Each place has a specialty and since nobody ventures beyond hometown boundaries, only the travelling trio learns about different ways of expressing music. They eagerly share this newly-acquired diversity despite being rebuffed by town leaders.
     It's all about discovery and integrating, Sasso and Goyette say. It's about being whole people, satisfied, happy. It's magical, really, to have the variety, to experience the power of children who dare to lead, Sasso and Goyette claim.
     Variety is what these two Indiana University graduates exemplify. Wells Scholars, each pursued double majors: Sasso, a bachelor of music in composition with a concentration in voice and a bachelor of science in biochemistry; Goyette, degrees in comparative literature and Russian. Each had been active choristers and musicans while growing up in Indianapolis. Both are now pursuing graduate degrees in Chicago.
     They themselves simply ventured forth, not knowing what was out there, but willing to risk all for a chance to find out what lay beyond the boundaries of their own experiences.