Composer Ruben Zahra’s children’s opera, Kirana, is set to travel to France, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, with a number of performances scheduled in these countries.
Kirana includes a wide range of artistic expression: contemporary music, digital animation, theatre, dance, storytelling, improvisation, projections and more.
The opera premiered in April 2013, with the support of the Kreattiv funding scheme and in collaboration with Kulleġġ Santa Margerita Girl’s Secondary School of Żejtun.
The project soon began to attract the attention of international festivals because of its innovative methodology connecting artists with children towards a collaborative creative process.
Kirana is a children’s opera especially because children contribute to the shaping of the music and drama through a series of improvisation workshops and art classes.
The score is composed for piano and percussion and performed live by two professional musicians. The children, on the other hand, complement the soundtrack with a sequence of improvisations conducted by the composer himself.
Zahra uses unconventional techniques and methods for his music workshops.
The children get to create rhythms and music with stones, water, cane and other raw materials. The whole process is not only entertaining for the participants, but they also get to create their own music.
The opera combines the primitive with the contemporary, with complex virtuoso passages on the piano intertwined with colliding stones, stomping feet, splashing water, chimes, rattles and other rhythms produced by the children themselves.
The story behind the opera is inspired by the creation myths of different cultures, mainly the legends from China, India, Babylon and Mesopotamia.
Some of the scenes in this mythological journey are portrayed through digital animation, directed by Martin Bonnici.
The children are instructed to draw a series of key frames for each character. The drawings are then scanned and processed into a video, which is projected over a spherical screen as part of the narrative of the performance.
Kirana offers a good example of how local performing arts can achieve a level of artistic excellence and strike the international festival network.
In June 2013, Zahra was invited to present a paper about the opera during a symposium at the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence, organised the European Network for Opera & Dance in Education.
Zahra got praise for finding a way to introduce children to a wide range of new artistic experiences.
His repertoire for children ranges from contemporary music to percussion workshops, stop animation and light painting.
Zahra’s music was presented in nine countries within major international festivals, including the Carthage Festival (Tunis), Kids Euro Fest (Washington DC), the Bela Bartok Memorial House (Budapest) and the Festival d’Aix en Provence.
Zahra’s repertoire extends from contemporary music to Maltese folk root to cinematic soundtracks.