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Jack & the Beanstalk

An operatic version of the story of Jack & the Beanstalk based on scenes from the operettas of Sir Arthur Sullivan.

Living in poverty with his mother, Jack sells the family cow to a mysterious dustman for a handful of beans. When he returns home and shows his mom the scrawny seeds, she throws them out a window in despair. The beans, of course, take root, and in the moonlight a magical stalk grows to the sky. Discovering the beanstalk and climbing it, as any boy hero would, Jack finds himself in the castle of a very large oaf and his kindly, haggard wife. Learning that this giant has taken his father’s golden hen, Jack, with the help of the Giant’s wife, stealthily takes it back. The Giant, in pursuit of Jack, receives a bump on the head after falling from the beanstalk, causing him to forget he’s supposed to be "bad." Realizing all the trouble he’s caused, the Giant resolves to behave well, agreeing that consideration for others requires people large and small to treat other people as they would want to be treated.

Listen to 3 excerpts from Jack & the Beanstalk

1. Jack’s Song
If you give me your attention...
from Gilbert and Sullivan’s: Princess Ida, "Gama’s Song"
mp3   listen mp3
2. Mother and Jack Duet
Now Jack, am I to understand...
from Gilbert and Sullivan’s: The Gondoliers, "Duke and Duchess Duet"
mp3   listen mp3
3. Giant and Wife Duet
Come out, come out wherever you are...
from Gilbert and Sullivan’s: H.M.S. Pinafore, "Captain and Dick Deadye Duet"
mp3   listen mp3

$35.00 per performance

Appropriate grade level
Pre-Kindergarten through 5th grade

40 minutes

3 to 5 singing actors An accompanist

Characters and voice types
Jack B. Nimble   A capable young man   Tenor or Mezzo
Mrs. Nimble   Jack’s mother   Mezzo or Soprano
Giant’s Wife   A long suffering woman   Mezzo or Soprano
Giant   A large dishonest man   Bass or Baritone
Trouble-Man   A dustman   Baritone or Bass
Narrator *

Optional Children’s Chorus
Chorus of Weeds, Daisies and Beans

Casting Options

  • Mrs. Nimble and The Giant’s Wife may be performed by the same singing actress.
  • The Giant and The Trouble-Man may be performed by the same singing actor.
  • * A separate performer may be used as the Narrator, or the cast of singers may share narrating responsibilities.

A note from John
I wrote Jack & the Beanstalk in 1993 in response to Arkansas Opera Theater asking me if I’d consider writing a children’s opera that could travel with a cast of 3 singers. It seemed to me that by double casting Jack’s Mother with the Giant’s Wife and The Giant with the man that buys Jack’s cow, five characters ought to squeeze out nicely from a cast of 3 performers. I put the opera together envisioning that casting arrangement and was pleased to learn the show had worked well during the Opera Theater’s statewide tour. (Other companies have used casts of 4 and even 5 performers by not double casting.)

The story of Jack & the Beanstalk features just the right larger-than-life characters for a children’s opera. With an adventuresome boy, his sweet mother, a giant and his beleaguered wife, and a mysterious trader in magical beans, the English folktale moves along with personality and energy. With those qualities in mind, I used the music of English operetta composer, Sir Arthur Sullivan. Sir Arthur’s music is highly accessible, lots of fun and always healthy to sing: three essential qualities when presenting performances before 9:00 a.m. in school gymnasiums.




copyright 2009-2022 Opera Tales   John Davies
Operas for children, by John Davies offered through OperaTales introduce the world of opera
to elementary school students in a dynamic, engaging and effectively educational manner.
Contact 315-415-1946   operatales@gmail.com

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