Today, the Arizona Opera in Tucson presents its first world première, with the oper Riders of the Purple Sage, composed by Craig Bohmler, with a libretto by Steven Mark Kohn after Zane Grey's novel.
It is Bohmler's second opera after The Tale of the Nutcracker (San Jose, 1999).
It is the story of Jane Withersteen and her battle to overcome persecution by members of her polygamous Mormon fundamentalist church. A leader of the church, Elder Tull, wants to marry her. Withersteen gets help from a number of friends, including Bern Venters and Lassiter, a famous gunman and killer of Mormons. Throughout most of the novel she struggles with her "blindness" to the evil nature of her church and its leaders, and tries to keep Venters and Lassiter from killing the adversaries who are slowly ruining her. When she adopts a child, Fay, she abandons her beliefs and discovers her true love. A second plot strand tells of Venters and his escape to the wilderness with a girl named Bess, "the rustler's girl," whom he has accidentally shot. Venters falls in love with the girl while caring for her. Together they escape to the East, while Lassiter, Fay, and Jane, pursued by both Mormons and rustlers, escape into a paradise-like valley and topple a giant rock to forever close off the only way in or out. (reproduced from Wikipedia)The cast includes soprano Karin Wolverton (Jane Withersteen), baritone Morgan Smith (Lassiter), tenor Joshua Dennis (Bern Venters), soprano Amanda Opuszynski (Bess) and bass baritone Kristopher Irmiter (Bishop Dyer). Joseph Mechavich conducts the Orchestra and Chorus of the Arizona Opera and Fenlon Lamb directs.
According the opera website, the orchestra setting is the following :
- 2 flutes (piccolo), 2 oboes (English horn), 2 clarinets in Bb, 2 bassoons ;
- 4 horns in F, 2 trumpets in C, 1 trombone, 1 bass trombone, 1 tuba ;
- timpani, percussion, mallets (vibes, xylophone, bells and chimes) ;
- harp, keyboard (piano and celeste) ;
The performance should last about 2 h 30, including intermission (3 acts, 40, 60 and 30 minutes). Further performances in Phoenix in March 2017.