With a Must-See Narrator, ‘Peter and the Wolf’ Blows Into West Houston for One Night Only

With a Must-See Narrator, ‘Peter and the Wolf’ Blows Into West Houston for One Night Only

Emanuelee 'Outspoken' Bean, left, and ECHO

ON THURSDAY, MAY 16, at the beautiful St. John Vianney Catholic Church in West Houston, the Energy Corridor of Houston Orchestra closes its 10th season with a performance of Peter and the Wolf. The famous show is Sergei Prokofiev’s “symphonic tale for children,” in which each character in the story is represented by a different instrument.


Stepping into the role as narrator is spoken-word artist, educator, and Houston’s fifth Poet Laureate, Emanuelee “Outspoken” Bean. It’s an inspired choice for a program celebrating ECHO’s commitment to music education, and another example of Bean’s commitment to stepping outside of his comfort zone and introducing poetry to artistic domains.

The concert also features ECHO’s 2024 Young Artist Concerto Competition winner Arturo Gonzalez, a supremely talented junior at The Woodlands College Park High School, who will perform the third movement of Dvořák’s Cello Concerto.

Since its premiere in 1936, Peter and the Wolf has introduced countless young audiences to the individual sounds of Western classical instruments (the bassoon, the flute, timpani, etc.) through now-famous musical passages or “themes” representing the story’s characters, including the animals. It’s a favorite of concert audiences, and everyone from Sting to Patrick Stewart to Viola Davis has narrated performances — but before ECHO reached out to him, Bean had never heard Peter and the Wolf.

“This is something new for me,” says Bean, who has performed live with Houston Ballet. “I’ve performed with music a ton of times, but never something like this.” In rehearsal, with ECHO’s co-founder and music director Michael Fahey conducting, Bean is exploring different voices for each character, and using his ears and eyes to stay “in the pocket” with the music as it unfolds. “There’s so much audio color in this, with the bassoon, the horn, the drums,” says Bean. “I just don’t want to get swallowed!”

Meanwhile, across town, Bean has taken on his own conducting duties as music director for Othello: The Remix, currently running through June 9 at Stages. In this Hamilton-esque hip-hop version of Shakespeare’s tragedy, every line of dialogue is rapped over prerecorded music, and Bean’s job was to ensure the actors stayed on beat and sounded convincing as rappers. “I coached them on how to say every syllable,” says Bean. “I mapped out a diagram and legend for them to follow for what to do with their voices.”

It was a job not dissimilar to what he’s been doing for 14 years as coach and mentor of Meta-Four Houston, a program of Writers in the Schools that nurtures and prepares young poets from across Houston to compete as a team in national poetry slam festivals. “The years of working with Meta-Four have been flowing into the work I’m doing with these other performances,” says Bean.

On Sunday, May 19, at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Bean wraps up a stimulating month of performances with a solo set of original poetry written in response to Kehinde Wiley’s monumental exhibition, An Archaeology of Silence, an exhibit MFAH director Gary Tinterow described as “one of the most moving exhibitions that I can recall in my last 11 years at the museum.” The intimate nature of the performance, one lone voice among Wiley’s large-scale paintings and sculptures, speaks to Bean’s gift for connecting to varied and unexpected artistic endeavors across Houston, be it a symphonic fairy tale by a Russian composer, a Shakespeare tragedy re-imagined as hip-hop, or a teenaged team of future poet laureates.

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