Academic journal article Notes

Charles Wuorinen

Academic journal article Notes

Charles Wuorinen

Article excerpt

Charles Wuorinen. Brokeback Mountain. DVD (Blu-ray). Titus Engel / Teatro Real Madrid. With Daniel Okulitch, Tom Randle, Heather Buck, and Hannah Esther Minutillo. Paris: Bel Air Classiques, 2015. BAC411. $39.99.

Charles Wuorinen's Brokeback Mountain differs markedly from director Ang Lee's Oscar-winning 2005 film of the same name. When the opera premiered at the Teatro Real of Madrid in January 2014, audiences and critics questioned whether Wuorinen, an uncompromising post-serialist composer, and first-time librettist Annie Proulx, author of the original 1997 short story, would create an opera with the same dramatic and emotional intensity. Whereas the film suggests the beauty of the short story's narrative prose through warm cinematography and sentimental orchestral underscoring, the opera emphasizes the fraught nature of the central romance between cowboys Ennis Del Mar and Jack Trist via Wuorinen's acerbic, yet expressive musical pallet and director Ivo van Hove's minimalist stage aesthetic.

Brokeback Mountain unfolds steadily over the course of twenty-two scenes that are divided evenly between two continuous acts. Framed by a panoramic video background of the Wyoming landscape that gradually blossoms into color, in the first act Ennis (sung by bass-baritone Daniel Okulitch) and Jack (tenor Tom Randle) find unexpected intimacy within the lonely, sparse environment. The menace posed by the mountain, expressed by an ominous, low-C pedal tone played by basses and timpani, recurs as the story moves forward through two decades. In adapting her story to the stage, Proulx adds episodes that flesh out the story's supporting characters, especially Ennis's wife, Alma (soprano Heather Buck) and Jack's wife, Lureen (mezzo-soprano Hannah Esther Minutillo). In a nod to operatic tradition, the second act features a ghost scene in which Lureen's deceased father suggests to her the nature of Jack's extramarital affairs. Much of Proulx's narrative prose from the original story finds its way into the sung dialogue, adding some poetic touches to the straightforward, American slang. …

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