Wuorinen's Brokeback Mountain

Tribute: work commissioned by Gérard Mortier (1943-2014)

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Titus Engel — Conductor

Ivo van Hove — Stage director

Jan Versweyveld — Set designer, lighting

Wojciech Dziedzic — Costume designer

Tal Yarden — Video

Annie Proulx — Libretto

Jan Vandenhouwe — Dramaturgy

Andrés Máspero — Chorus master

Daniel Okulitch — Ennis del Mar

Tom Randle — Jack Twist

Heather Buck — Alma

Hannah Esther Minutillo — Lureen

Ethan Herschenfeld — Aguirre / Hog-Boy

Celia Alcedo — Alma's Mother

Ryan MacPherson — Jack's Father

Jane Henschel — Jack's Mother

Hilary Summers — Waitress

Program notes

A world premiere at the Teatro Real de Madrid: Brokeback Mountain, Charles Wuorinen's new opera, composed after Annie Proulx's novel and Ang Lee's multi Oscar winning movie.

One of the highlights of the 2014 operatic season, Brokeback Mountain is a new opera composed by Charles Wuorinen after the original short story of Annie Proulx. First published in the New Yorker in 1997, then in the collection of Wyoming stories, Close Range, the story of Brokeback Mountain is well-known worldwide thanks to the Academy Award-winning film adaptation made by Ang Lee in 2005, starring Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal.

The American composer Charles Wuorinen, recipient of a Pulitzer Prize and a MacArthur grant, came up with the idea of composing an opera after watching the film version of Brokeback Mountain. "I knew there was operatic material at hand," he explained. Gérard Mortier, the director of the Teatro Real Madrid, commissioned this new opera. The libretto was written by Annie Proulx herself.

"Annie Proulx and I, explains Charles Wuorinen, began consultation on the work in 2008 with a week spent at the excellent Ucross Foundation (an artists' retreat) near Sheridan, Wyoming. There I had the chance to go into the mountains that provided the model for Brokeback, and to hold several conversations with Annie Proulx. The result of this and many subsequent exchanges was a splendidly concise and apposite libretto, in which Proulx, through her characteristically laconic style, conveys character and scene with great efficiency. An essential property of any libretto which aspires to project drama is this kind of efficiency, since sung language greatly slows the delivery of words. I consider myself very lucky to have been given such an excellent exemplar."

Following Haroun and the Sea of Stories premiered in 2004 at New York City Opera, Brokeback Mountain is Wuorinen's second opera. The cast stars Daniel Okulitch and Tom Randle in the roles of Ennis del Mar and Jack Twist, the two characters struggling with their social environment. Ivo van Hove, general director of the Toneelgroep in Amsterdam, is the stage director of this world premiere. The Orchestra and Chorus of the Teatro Real are conducted by Titus Engel, who made his debut in Madrid last season.

Argument of Brokeback Mountain:

In 1963, two young men, Ennis del Mar and Jack Twist, meet and fall in love with each other on the Brokeback Mountain in Wyoming. The former is a ranch hand, the latter a rodeo cowboy. Yet, the homophobic society in which they live impedes such a relationship. For twenty years, the two men hide their mutual love to the rest of the world – to their families, colleagues and wifes.

© Picture: Javier del Real.

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