Opera by the Book

Today’s Composers Search for Inspiration in Novels, Plays, and Even Films

Jake Heggie, composer of Dead Man Walking, which San Francisco Opera unveils next fall, has insisted to interviewers that he worked directly from Sister Helen Prejean's book and bypassed Tim Robbins's movie. Yet Heggie told me that the far bigger size of the film's audience was something he and librettist Terrance McNally had to think about, while sticking to the rather different book.

Meanwhile, the trendy Poul Ruders's version of Margaret Atwood's novel The Handmaid's Tale has just been premiered in Copenhagen, and this June, Opera Theater of St. Louis introduces its third Minoru Miki opera, The Tale of Genji, based on the gigantic 11th-century classic romance. Tobias Picker is completing a Met commission for an opera based on Theodore Dreiser's Sister Carrie. Composer Elliot Goldenthal and wondrous theater wizard Julie Taymor have been trying for a few years to install their Beowulf show; they call it Grendel after the mother (father?) of all monsters. Who knows what else is coming soon to an opera house near you.

William Bolcom’s new opera, A View From the Bridge, is based on Arthur Miller’s play.
photo: Robert Kusel
William Bolcom’s new opera, A View From the Bridge, is based on Arthur Miller’s play.

Expanded Classical Music Section: Part 1

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