Brokeback Mountain opera gives voice to frustrated cowboy love

Mon Jan 27, 2014 11:36am EST
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By Tracy Rucinski

MADRID (Reuters) - When Annie Proulx published "Brokeback Mountain" in The New Yorker magazine in 1997, she had no inkling the tragic cowboy love story would go on to inspire an Oscar-winning film and even an opera.

The original short story took the American writer more than a year of thinking and six weeks of writing, at the end of which Proulx thought "her involvement with the story had finished," she told Reuters.

American composer Charles Wuorinen saw the operatic potential of the doomed romance between two Wyoming sheep herders, however, and asked Proulx to write the libretto.

"The story embodies a contemporary version of an eternal and universal human problem: Two people who are in love but who can't get it together, who can't make it work," Wuorinen, 75, said before a dress rehearsal in the run-up to the opera's world premiere in Madrid on Tuesday.

"The story is fraught, and has the kind of immediacy that makes it ideally suited for an operatic treatment. It's not an ideological piece ... It's just a piece about a universal human problem which doesn't get resolved," he said.

Wuorinen, known for his complex 12-tone music, proposed the piece to Gerard Mortier, who brought the project with him to Madrid's Teatro Real opera house.

Proulx wrote the libretto in close coordination with Wuorinen, who won a Pulitzer prize in 1970 for the electronic music piece "Time's Encomium".

His score uses a wide range of instruments to invoke the sounds of exhilaration, longing and frustration in the backdrop of wind and rain on Brokeback Mountain.   Continued...

American tenor Tom Randle (Jack Twist) (L), and Canadian bass-baritone Daniel Okulitch (Ennis del Mar), perform during a dress rehearsal of the opera "Brokeback Mountain" at the Teatro Real in Madrid, January 24, 2014. REUTERS/Paul Hanna