Oliver Knussen’s one-act fantasy Where the Wild Things Are, based on Maurice Sendak’s 1963 illustrated children’s classic, was a smash when the Chicago Opera Theater mounted it two Christmases ago. Now the high-spirited production returns for an eight-performance engagement. In both the book and the opera, the young and mischievous Max (who my friends’ kids have assured me is as famous as Pooh and Christopher Robin) is banished to bed without his supper. Instead of repenting, he dreams up a tropical isle inhabited by wild creatures and hairy, saw-toothed ogres whom he’s able to subdue by looking them straight in the eye. The music, by the gifted young Briton whose other compositions include Songs of Winnte-the-Pooh, is ingenious, charming, and amusing–the kind that delights the child without boring the adult. The breezy libretto, written by Sendak himself, has the Wild Things singing to Max in “pidgin Yiddish.” As Max is soprano Karen Beardsley, who’s made the role her own and Josepha Gayer sings the part of the mother. The sets and costumes for this Frank Corsaro staging were designed by Sendak to closely resemble his much-loved illustrations. Sharing the double bill is another favorite cautionary tale, Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf. Musical direction for both will be under the baton of Steven Larsen, a COT stalwart. Thursday through next Saturday, December 22, 7:30 PM, and next Sunday, December 23, 3 PM, Chicago Theatre, 175 N. State. 902-1500 or 663-0048.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Dan Rest.