The tragic love affair found on Brokeback Mountain will take center stage once again. The avant-garde Brokeback Mountain opera is set to make its world premiere in Madrid, Spain on Tuesday, January 27th. Brought to the Teatro Real by former New York City Opera director Gerard Mortier with a libretto written by composer Charles Wuorinen, the English-language opera has already begun drawing comparisons to Wagner.
The powerfully honest tale of two young men, Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist, who met in the summer of 1963 while shepherding in the rough landscape of Wyoming, sparked a love affair with audiences. When the seasons come to a close and they must part, the two men realize the true nature of their feelings. The story follows their secretive and forbidden love over the course of several years as the two of them desperately try to hide what they have from those around them.
Ahead of the world premiere in Spain of the Brokeback Mountain opera, the author of the original short story, Annie Proulx, expressed great excitement at the possibilities further presented to explore intricacies of the tale. She commented that the opera will allow for more room to delve into the complexities of their relationship, something she feels the film had no interest in doing. Proulx recalled being thrilled when composer Wuorinen brought his vision to her for the libretto. Wuorinen, who is openly gay, has said he wants to give a rugged presence to the Wyoming landscape as opposed to the cinematically romantic one featured in Ang Lee’s film. He went further to say that while it is very beautiful, he wants to show its danger and urges that this story needs to be dramatically tragic rather than sentimental. Wuorinen’s score uses a wide range of brooding woodwind, brass and heavy drums. The composer has said that while he does not think of the opera as a propaganda or an ideological piece; however, if it helps it then that is fine by him.
The stage version is a grittier production with a tighter focus on the characters. The opera also features the addition of a ghost and chorus. Director Mortier has said the importance of the story is that great love is great love even if social conventions are opposed to it. The love scenes which caused the film quite a bit of controversy are far more discreet in the opera. Depicted subtly on the minimalist stage, a huge mountain projects onto a white backdrop as Jack and Ennis fall into each other’s arms.
The 2005 film directed by Ang Lee starred Jake Gyllenhaal and the late Heath Ledger as the doomed lovers was both critically beloved and went onto worldwide box office success. The Academy award winning film went onto gross over eighty million at the domestic box office off a mere fourteen million production budget. It has been eight years since Ang Lee’s adaptation lost the Academy Award for best picture to the racially-charged Crash. The Brokeback Mountain opera will feature American tenor Tom Randle as Jack and Canadian bass-baritone Daniel Okulitch as Ennis when it opens its doors in Spain this Tuesday.
By Benjamin Murray