Professor and theater department bring grim twist to fairytale opera

Some students may have taken a music class or two from music professor Kurt Erickson, but what many may not know is that he recently wrote an opera.

The opera will be coming to Cosumnes River College the spring 2012 semester and is entitled “What Your Parents Don’t Want You to Know… (About Fairytales).” It is based off the Grimm brothers’ fairytale “Cinderella,” Erickson said.

The opera will include a narrator presenting the sweeter and more popular version of the story, while the actors rebel and explain the original, darker story of “Cinderella.”

The opera was created when Houston’s Lone Star Lyric Theater Festival approached him about doing a festival based on the Grimm brothers’ fairytales, said Erickson.

The Lone Star Lyrics Theater is “known for its innovation and use of nontraditional theatrical spaces” according to the article “Lone Star Lyric Fest” by Karen Rust.

The opera was first performed at the festival in June 2011 and will also be brought to Fresno’s Community College Opera Workshop program fall of 2011 according to

The inspiration for the opera came about when Erickson collaborated with playwright Aaron Loeb, who wanted to do an opera that played off “Cinderella,” said Erickson.

Before writing his opera, Erickson said he had a “check-list of goals” he wanted to complete beforehand. However, after finishing his last check on the list of writing an orchestra and solo voice piece, Erickson said he was presented with the incredible opportunity to write an opera.

“It takes a fair amount of time,” Erickson said. “If you want to write an opera, it’s a more complex piece.”

After going to theatre arts professor Cheri Fortin for advice about his opera, Erickson said she got excited about the project and said it should be brought to CRC. However, writing such a big piece is not without its obstacles.

“Starting is the hardest part,” Erickson said, especially when you have to write something “really big really fast.”

The piece will be about an hour long and one of the longest pieces he has ever written, Erickson said. Theatre students are also looking forward to the opera coming to CRC.

“They know what’s in the horizon,” Erickson said, “and the feedback is really positive.”

However, “What Your Parents Don’t Want You to Know…(About Fairytales)” sounds different from what many may expect from an opera.

“They think opera and powdered wigs and five hours long comes to mind, but it’s really not unlike a musical,” said Erickson. “It’s funny, kind of dark and sort of irreverent.”