This opera is a modern tale about a girl named Miranda who lives in a fishing village with her father. The village is on a lake, and when the story starts, the fish in the lake are not biting. The villagers are getting upset. They think that the ‘Beast Man’, who is the giant, is scaring them off. But Miranda is curious about the giant and takes a boat into the lake. She falls into the lake, and the giant rescues her. When she awakes, she learns that the giant is not mean but gentle. She watches him care for his pet swans, and he is kind towards her, offering her his food. When Miranda leaves the giant’s island, she promises to come back.

Meanwhile, back in the village, a Stardust Seller arrives and sells the villagers a magic dust to get the fish biting. They sprinkle the magic dust into the lake. The next morning, the lake is covered with green slime. Only the giant knows how to get rid of the green slime, but he cannot speak. Miranda tries to tell the villagers that the giant can help, but no one will listen. I won’t tell you the rest or it will spoil the ending.

I thought the story was very good because it was very emotional. Miranda fought with her father, the villagers were sometimes upset and sometimes excited. They were afraid of the giant. The story was sung mostly in rhyme, and there were parts of the opera where the characters were just speaking, also in rhyme.

The music was interesting. The melodies were not the type for singing along. They seemed simple but hard to sing! The singing had lots of harmonies, and the five singers had very strong voices. There were also four musicians and the conductor on stage. All of them were dressed like villagers. The instruments were the harp, cello, flute or piccolo, and percussion. The most interesting percussion instrument was something called a water gong. The percussionist struck a gong and then lowered it into water to change the sound. I think the composer chose this because he wanted a water sound in the music. The musicians played well, and I liked watching them on stage.

The stage design was quite imaginative. It consisted of boxes and crates to create the village and the giant’s island. The way the designer created the water was unique. He used hollow ropes that changed colour. Most of the time the lake was silver, but then it turned green. The actors used the ropes to create waves, especially when Miranda was in her boat. I like the way the giant was constructed. He was like a giant sculpture, but there was a man inside moving his arms and mouth. The giant’s face was ghost-like, and he looked lonely.

I would recommend this opera for children who are interested in music and in seeing new things. Before seeing this opera, children should read the original book by Michael Morpurgo. If I had read the book first, I probably would have understood what the story was about and got more meaning out of the experience. Even so, I enjoyed going to the opera!

Stephen (aged 11)

Stephen was at "Gentle Giant", an opera for children with music by Stephen McNeff and Mike Kenny, at the Linbury Studio Theatre, Royal Opera House, London, 1st March 2008.