Brokeback Mountain Becomes An Opera

Jake Gyllenhall and Heath Ledger. They aren't in the opera.(Photo: thelostogledotcom)

I used to see Charles Wuorinen in church when we were both parishioners at St. Ignatius of Antioch in New York. He gave some wonderful talks on Gregorian chant. These were an asterisk to his long running career as one of America’s most admired composers.

Wuorinen’s latest project is Brokeback Mountain, an opera based on the short story by Annie Proulx. The film of the same name was a mega hit in 2005, with Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhall as the two cowboys who discover that the love which dare not speak its name is shouting from the rooftops. What could have become camp was instead understated and beautiful.

The film made a lot of money, was widely admired and was detested by many who didn’t care to see how these two cowboys spent their down time in Wyoming,  if you excuse the expression. One of the advantages of Ang Lee’s film is the magnificent scenery, which in an opera will have to be expressed through music.

Before anything else, read Proulx’s exquisite story.

The operatic Brokeback Mountain was developed for the New York City Opera in 2007. The idea was supported by Gerard Mortier. He was General Director of the City Opera for about one week. He departed before moving in, for a better gig running the Teatro Real in Madrid.  Proulx herself agreed to write the libretto. Now this opera on an American theme by an American composer based on the work of an American writer will be premiered in Madrid, sung in English to a Spanish audience. As operatic mishegas goes, this ain’t nothin’

Brokeback Mountain opens in Madrid on January 28.  No doubt performance in the states will follow, probably in our most adventurous companies: Houston, St. Louis, San Francisco. I hope the music reflects the beauty and the truth of Proulx’s work.

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