Madrid's Teatro Real on Thursday announced new details for Charles Wuorinen's long-awaited opera version of Brokeback Mountain, based on Annie Proulx's tale of cowboy romance that was made into an Oscar-winning film in 2005.
The opera, which is scheduled to premiere in January, will star the Canadian bass-baritone Daniel Okulitch and the American tenor Tom Randle as Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist, respectively (played in the film version by Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal).
Proulx herself is writing the libretto. She and Wuorinen began developing the opera at an artist's retreat in Wyoming in 2008. "When to my great joy Annie Proulx agreed to write the libretto herself for my proposed opera, I told her that my mission would be to restore the meaning of a story that may have become world famous, but (as happens so often) has been hidden in the process."
Wuorinen, a native New Yorker, added that he spent time roaming through the mountains that provide the model for Brokeback, and said his score “conveys the harsh magnificence of the mountain where the protagonists first meet.”
For anyone familiar with Gustavo Santaolalla’s nostalgic, folk-flavored score to the film, Wuorinen’s style – known as serial and primarily 12-tone – may come as a bracing change of pace. Wuorinen has won numerous awards including the 1970 Pulitzer Prize. His previous opera was based on Salman Rushdie's novel Haroun and the Sea of Stories.
Brokeback Mountain was originally commissioned by director Gerard Mortier for New York City Opera. He left the company before his contract began in 2008, and subsequently brought the opera to Madrid, where he began as artistic director in 2010. But in another sudden twist, Teatro Real announced on Wednesday that Mortier, who is fighting cancer, will step down from his post and will be succeeded immediately by Joan Matabosch, who was the artistic director of the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona.