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How to write an opera from 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory'

June 19, 2010 | 10:00 am


Creating larger-than-life characters for a new opera is no easy task, but composer Peter Ash says that the five lucky kids who populate Roald Dahl’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” were so operatic, the question of what vocal types each of the children should be almost answered itself.

“First of all, it seemed clear Charlie had to be a boy treble, and the others should be adult singers,” Ash explains.  He and librettist Donald Sturrock felt strongly about Augustus Gloop: “It was clear that he was a fat boy, he needed to be a big, self-important tenor.”

“Then Violet Beauregarde, she blows up into a blueberry and has a coloratura tantrum — she had to be a soprano,” the composer adds, “and Veruca Salt. She’s a spoiled brat who wants to be Violet?  Well, she’s a mezzo-soprano.”  Finally there’s Mike Teavee: “Let’s see…he’s violence-obsessed, slightly underdeveloped?  The obvious character type, Handelian counter-tenor.”

Click here to read my Arts & Books story about how Los Angeles played a key part in the 13-year adventure of bringing “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” to the opera house.

--James C. Taylor

Photo: Daniel Okulitch as Willy Wonka with the Chorus of Oompa Loompas in Opera Theatre of St. Louis' production of "The Golden Ticket." Credit: Ken Howard