All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
Stephen King’s classic 1977 horror novel, “The Shining,” is now a modern horror opera. Opera Colorado will present Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Paul Moravec and librettist Mark Campbell’s production through March 6 at Ellie Caulkins Opera House at Denver Performing Arts Complex.
The opera was first performed by Minnesota Opera in 2016.
“It’s a beast of a production,” said Opera Colorado Director David Toro, a Colorado Springs native who graduated from Liberty High School. “It’s a really big set with moving pieces, video production, sound cues. The original director said we have to make sure it’s scary, and keep the element of the horror film in it, which can be hard to do on stage.”
The opera remains mostly true to the novel, though not Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film version, which King reportedly didn’t love. Both versions chronicle writer and alcoholic Jack Torrance’s slow descent into madness, brought on by his new job as caretaker of the Overlook Hotel, where he, wife Wendy and young son Danny have arrived to spend a long, quiet winter trapped inside.
The Grady sisters, offspring of Delbert Grady, the previous murderous caretaker, are present. As well as the siren in the bathtub in room 237. And good old Lloyd, the bartender. Missing, however, is Tony, Danny’s imaginary and psychic friend. And the terrifying elevator-of-blood scene.
Making it spooky relies heavily on the music and lighting. Though an “undercurrent of eeriness” runs throughout the opera, as the Torrance family falls apart and finds redemption, there also are joyful moments marked by arias, duets and ensemble numbers. Wendy sings about continuing to love her husband despite their troubles, and there’s an earworm from the ghost-filled ballroom scene that’s sure to stick with you post-show.
“This musical version of Stephen’s King’s novel about the remote Colorado hotel that turns a man into a homicidal maniac succeeds at nearly everything it attempts. It marries the highest of art forms with one of the most suspect in popular culture. King’s story is opened up and realized in new ways, and opera actually looks fun for a change,” wrote The Wall Street Journal in a 2016 review.
And that’s a selling point in the opera world. Those who might not be interested in spending a few hours watching an 19th-century Italian opera might be lured to a modern show sung in English. There also will be English captions projected above the stage.
“It’s not always this stuffy experience,” Toro said. “America is one of the world’s leading forces in new opera. We want new experiences and we want to see ourselves in operas. That’s why you see a rise of social justice operas out now, too.”
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