BYU School of Music builds 10-foot-tall puppet for upcoming opera


Music and engineering combine in BYU’s School of Music to create a one-of-a-kind opera retelling of “Beauty and the Beast.”

The opera, “Zémire et Azor,” is one of the oldest versions of “Beauty and the Beast” and tells the story of an inventor who is cursed to become one of his own creations. The opera will be sung in French with English dialogue.

The centerpiece of the show is a 10-foot-tall puppet representing the Beast. The puppet takes four people to operate, with one person operating the head, one person operating the body and one person operating each arm.

Cooper Tribett, the head puppeteer for the show, and others walk around with the puppet during a run through of the show. The puppet takes four people to operate due to its size. (Addie Blacker)

Cooper Tribett, a BYU student from Conway, Arkansas, majoring in mechanical engineering, is the head puppeteer for the show. He said it takes a lot of work for the Beast to feel like a real character on stage.

“It mostly just boils down to making a character that feels lifelike at all times,” Tribett said. “So even when the puppet is not talking or really doing anything, we still try to make him breathe so that it looks like he’s still alive.”

Tribett said despite the size of the puppet, its design allows it to move all over the stage.

Jacob Stucki, a BYU student and vocal performance major from Yakima, Washington, said the puppet was fun to act with.

“I have been super surprised at how expressive they’ve been able to make the puppet,” Stucki said. “The puppet can do a lot of what an actor can do and so it gives you a lot to work with as an actor because you can react to all of that.”

A test walk of the unfinished puppet. The puppet at its full extended height reaches approximately 10 feet. (Mandi Robins)

Shea Owens, assistant professor of voice and director of opera at BYU, said he hopes the collaborative effort of putting the show together will resonate with the audience.

“It’s not just about the School of Music anymore; we’re really bringing together pretty much all of the disciplines within this building to create this work, and I love doing that. It’s wonderful,” Owens said. “I think for anyone coming to experience the show, it’s going to be very special.”

The show will run from Oct. 20-23 and tickets will be available to purchase online.

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