Elijah's kite
an opera for young audiences

James Rolfe
James Rolfe
Composition Date: 2006
Duration: 00:33:00
Genre: Staged Vocal Works, Operas, Complete Vocal Score


Instrumentation Set Number 1:
  • 1 x Percussion
  • 1 x Piano
  • 2 x High voice
  • 2 x Soprano
  • 1 x Mezzo Soprano
  • 1 x Tenor
  • 1 x Baritone
  • 1 x Double bass
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Programme Note:
Elijah's Kite
An opera for all ages by Camyar Chai (words) and James Rolfe (music)
A note on the opera
Elijah's Kite explores aggression, peer pressure, self-esteem, and imagination. It avoids demonizing any particular child by labeling them good or bad, dealing instead with complex characters whose actions and reactions engender positive or negative circumstances. The ambiguity of what is and isn’t ‘cool’ emerged from a series of discussions with teachers and students in two elementary schools in Vancouver, Canada. At a time when children – particularly boys – are engrossed with violent and stressful video games, the oddity of the kite contributes to the stigmatization of the title character, while infusing the story with an element of magic realism. The role of bully is not exclusive to boys. Indeed, all of the characters display degrees of bullying behavior, often perpetuated or exaggerated by the influence of the group. Mob mentality (as seen in the opera’s chorus) is a part of human nature that begins to manifest itself at this age. How the children negotiate and cope with these situations is central to the story. The musical world of this age group is often fast, forceful, repetitive, and rhyming; this is combined with the lyrical arias and ensembles of opera. Elijah's Kite aims to engage an audience of any age with an entertaining yet thoughtful opera, one which will generate discussions about how to be more compassionate in our relationships to one another. The journey through a sometimes-difficult story leaves the audience with an affirmation of the human spirit, a celebration of human imagination, and hope. Elijah's Kite was commissioned by Tapestry New Opera (Wayne Strongman, Artistic Director) and Manhattan School of Music's Opera School (Gordon Ostrowski, Director) with the assistance of The Canada Council for the Arts.
Act 1
At a school playground in a big city, the lunch bell rings. A nine-year-old boy named Elijah sits alone, holding his beautiful kite. Enter Keisha, age ten, with a new girl, Miriam. Keisha tells her that Elijah is usually there, clutching his kite, waiting for it to fly away from school with him. Keisha teases him, but Miriam is sympathetic.The bell rings again, and Elijah gasps; he says that Big Billy Brett’s usual lunchtime detention is ending and he must hide. Keisha and Elijah tell Miriam about the terrible exploits of Big Billy, the schoolyard bully. To their astonishment, Miriam says she isn’t afraid of bullies. Big Billy arrives with his sidekick, Nikki, and a gang of kids. Nikki mocks Keisha and shoos her away. When Elijah tries to hide, Billy catches him and torments him, and Nikki leads the kids in a chant of ‘weirdo’. Billy demands Elijah's lunch. Miriam tells Elijah not to give it to him, but Elijah shushes her while Billy grabs Elijah’s sandwich and eats it. But Billy is confused by the lunch, which turns out to be sushi, and is disgusted when told what's inside it. Then he treats produces an enormous burp to disgust Elijah.This is too much for Miriam, who tries to intervene. Billy tells her to go away, and Nikki calls her fat, which Billy echoes. Miriam says Billy's insults don’t bother her because he’s stupid. Billy continues to insult Miriam, but Miriam’s retorts are sharp and witty. She gets the better of him, and the kids laugh at Billy. When he can stand it no longer, Billy attacks Miriam. To everyone’s amazement, Miriam flips him to the ground. Shocked, hurt and humiliated, Billy cries, and runs away, promising revenge. Nikki asks Miriam to hang with them. The bell rings and lunch is over.
Act 2
The next day, Elijah is back in his spot with his kite. Keisha enters and can’t stop talking about how great Miriam is. Elijah is skeptical, saying she’s just like the rest of them. Nikki, Miriam, and the gang walk in, singing the praises of shopping. Keisha tries to join in, but is mocked by Nikki, who tells Miriam that she must choose either the cool kids or the nerds. Miriam tells Keisha to go away, and Elijah says “I told you so”. Stung, Miriam grabs Elijah's precious kite, and taunts him with it. But the kite gets broken, and everyone is shocked. Nikki and the kids scorn her for going too far, and Miriam leaves, crushed. Keisha tries to comfort Elijah, who leaves; then she grabs the broken kite. The bell rings.Next day, Nikki continues to mock Miriam, but Elijah stops her, saying that perhaps the whole kite thing is a dumb idea. Keisha enters with Elijah’s kite, which she has fixed up magnificently. She says that her dad designs planes and helped her, and that now the kite should really be able to fly. Miriam apologizes to Elijah, and blames Nikki for turning her against him. Nikki is furious and left on the outside.Billy enters holding a bat and begins to threaten Miriam. Nikki joins him and eggs him on. But Billy is stopped in his tracks, impressed by the awesome kite. Miriam has an idea: why doesn't Billy use his tremendous burping power to help Elijah and his kite lift off? He does so, and to everyone’s amazement, Elijah lifts off the ground. He laughs with joy and excitement. Cast and chorus are reconciled and sing together.

Premiere Information:
New York, NY
Manhattan School of Music
9 Apr 2006
Manhattan School of Music Opera Ensemble
Wayne Strongman, conductor


  • Call Number:
  • MV 7110 R746el
  • Genre:
  • Staged Vocal Works, Operas, Complete Vocal Score
  • Date of Acquisition:
  • April 24, 2014
  • Type:
  • Print-music, Published by CMC
  • Physical Description:
  • 1 score (67 p.) ;
    67 Pages
    Height: 28 cm
    Width: 22 cm
  • Language Information
  • Language of libretto: English
  • Additional Information:
  • Commissioned by Tapestry New Opera and the Manhattan School of Music
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