Three-hour musical epics about love, death, and revenge don’t exactly scream “kids’ day out.” So this month, the Lyric Opera moves the drama from indoor stage to outdoor cage with Second Nature, a new opera by 25-year-old wunderkind composer Matthew Aucoin. It premieres at Lincoln Park Zoo on August 19 and 20. “Kids are probably more open to contemporary music than many adult opera audiences are,” says Aucoin, who lives in New York City. “They’re way less likely to say, ‘This doesn’t sound like Puccini.’ ”
Aucoin describes the 45-minute production as a dystopian fairy tale that tells a reverse Garden of Eden story: In the future, humans have so destroyed the environment that they have moved into synthetic, zoo-like habitats. An ape next door to two kids (played by adult singers) tempts them with forbidden fresh fruit, and they then set out to explore the outside world.
Zookeepers have gamely lent expertise as well as space. “They have been keeping me informed about the difference between an ape and a monkey,” says Aucoin.