Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Fat Lady Winged?

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While Valley theaters carve out next season, Arizona Opera is hatching a long-term plan to adapt Zane Grey’s classic Western Riders of the Purple Sage into a sweeping musical epic. Think opera and Westerns are a shotgun marriage? Composer Craig Bohmler says look closer. 

 “Opera heightens emotions without being corny,” he says. “And Riders has opera stakes. It’s Verdi-an: strong women, great nobility and vengeance in a vast landscape.” Western artist Ed Mell will create the rugged, sprawling landscape where Lassiter and Jane sing and shoot and meet their fate.

 Riders had its first workshop at Arizona Opera last month as part of a process the staff hopes will culminate in a 2015 production. “We’re excited,” says Ryan Taylor, Arizona Opera’s director of artistic administration. “There’s rising interest in balancing traditional opera with works that connect to our culture. It’s a great opportunity to expand our horizons.”