Brokeback Mountain, the opera, premieres in Spain
The world premiere of the operatic adaptation of Annie Proulx's novel Brokeback Mountain opened at Spain's Teatro Real in Madrid on Wednesday.
With a libretto by the by Proulx herself, the music is by the American, Pulitzer Prize winning Charles Wuorinen, composer of the 1975 'intellectual porn' opera, The (W)hore of Babylon.
The opera was originally commissioned by the New York City Opera in 2008 but when general director Gerard Mortier left the production was cancelled but taken up by by the Teatro Real two years later when Mortier was appointed general director there.
Set in Wyoming in the 1960s, Brokeback Mountain is the story of a long, secret and doomed love affair between two cowboys Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist.
Wuorinen said he tried to give the menacing nature of the Wyoming landscape that forms the background to the story, a greater presence in the opera than in the 2005 film or even Proulx's original short story.
“It is very beautiful as the film shows, but it is definitely not sentimental, it is not a romantic landscape, it's a deadly one,” he said.
Wuorinen said the opera deals with a typical kind of impossible and tragic situation.
“In this case, it's two people who in some way want to have a relationship which in their time is forbidden by society.”
It follows a production of another opera about forbidden love, Wagner's Tristan and Isolde which Mortier, programmed deliberately ahead of Brokeback Mountain.
“The importance of Annie Proulx's novel is that 'great love' is 'great love' even if social reflections and conventions are opposed to it,” Mortier said of the opera.
“Tristan, Isolde, Jack, Ennis?- they all don't understand what's happening to them but are all prepared to die for the love they feel.”
Wuorinen said the music, text and production is “non-sentimental” and that he was not afraid of displeasing the traditional audience at the Teatro Real, one of Europe's leading opera houses.
He also said he was "more interested in the fundamental human problem" of the characters than in the issue of gay rights.
“I would not want the opera to be thought of as an ideological or propaganda piece,” he said.
“But if it helps, that's fine.”
Brokeback Mountain stars Canadian 'barihunk' Daniel Okulitch as Ennis and American tenor Tom Randle as Jack. The opera plays until February 11 and will be webcast from the Teatro Real website on February 7.