American Western Opera Launches Digital Homestead

April 29, 2016

Riders of the Purple Sage, an American Western opera composed by Craig Bohmler with a libretto by Steven Mark Kohn, will receive its world premiere at Arizona Opera in 2017.

Based on Zane Grey's most famous novel, the story of Riders is remarkably relevant today – tackling issues of women's independence, faith vs. fundamentalism, abuse of power, and guns in society. Complex issues are given human faces, with sharply drawn characters like Jane Withersteen, our morally incorruptible heroine, and Lassiter, the "John Wayne of Opera.”

Riders is a visceral experience that raises Big Questions and allows audiences to seek their own answers through the pure emotional experience of opera. The music style is influenced by Carlisle Floyd, Stephen Sondheim, and Kurt Weill, and utilizes the musical idioms of Western film soundtracks.

The world premiere production will star baritone Morgan Smith (Starbuck in Jake Heggie's Heggie's Moby-dick) as Lassiter, opposite the Jane Withersteen of Karin Wolverton (Anna Sorensen in Kevin Puts's Silent Night). Sets will be designed by famed Southwest landscape artist Ed Mell, with stage direction by Fenlon Lamb and Keitaro Harada conducting.