Youth Opera Composer Q&A

Q&A with Sarasota Youth Opera Composer
Rachel J. Peters

This November 11 and 12, Sarasota Youth Opera will present its sixth world-premiere, Rootabaga Country by Rachel J. Peters.With a cast of 89 young people ages 8 to 18, Ms. Peters’ opera brings to life excerpts from iconic American author Carl Sandburg’s book Rootabaga Stories.

What made you want to become a professional composer? I specifically wanted to become a composer for the stage because I believe that singing is the most expressive and honest way people communicate. There is an old saying that characters sing when they have so much to say that speaking is not enough, and I definitely agree.

What was it about Sandburg’s Rootabaga Stories that made you think it would make a good opera?   I like that Rootabaga Stories ask us to stretch our imaginations as far as we can while being grounded in an American experience that is familiar to everyone.

I have never really been able to relate to many of the most popular fairy tales we usually see, but I grew up in the Midwest so I could easily picture the settings described in the stories. Carl Sandburg took the English language to his own special delicious place, and I knew it would be fun for singers to sing those words and for audiences to hear them.

Finally, I think we don’t have enough genuinely silly opera in the world, and we can always use more!

In your opinion, why should people care about Opera?   Nothing is more exciting than being transported to another world by the sheer power of a good piece of music. We all deserve to feel that alive! And because anything can happen in an opera, and an opera can be about anything, it keeps us imagining and asking big questions.

For more info on this exciting new opera, visit