The sinister Overlook Hotel, the troubled Torrance family and those creepy ghost sisters made famous by Stephen King will have their stage debut in St. Paul, the Minnesota Opera has announced.
With King’s blessing, an opera version of “The Shining,” the 1977 work widely considered one of the top horror novels of all time, will premiere at Ordway Center in May 2016. Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Paul Moravec and librettist Mark Campbell are collaborating on the project. Campbell also wrote the books for the opera’s 2011 premiere of “Silent Night” and its upcoming “The Manchurian Candidate.”
As opera companies around the world seek contemporary works that bring with them added relevance to modern audiences, the commission of such a popular story by one of the world’s bestselling authors is a coup for Minnesota Opera.
Eric Simonson, who will direct, first floated the idea of adapting “The Shining” to artistic director Dale Johnson during a brainstorming session four years ago.
“I thought, ‘are you kidding?’ ” Johnson said. “But it’s perfect for opera, when you think about it. You have a hero who is struggling, a strong mother, both trying to keep the family safe. Today’s audiences want to see stories about them, to look on stage and see familiar characters. And Americans love horror.”
Obtaining the rights proved complicated, involving both Warner Bros. and the Kubrick Foundation. Gaining King’s approval was easier after the author’s fiction collaborator Peter Straub, a close friend of composer Moravec, talked up the idea. King, who had already approved an opera version of his novel “Dolores Claiborne” that premieres Wednesday in San Francisco, agreed, stipulating that he also must sign off on the libretto.
All involved with the project say they want to remain true to the book, rather than to the also-iconic Stanley Kubrick movie starring Jack Nicholson. King famously disapproved of the film, in part because the father is not portrayed in a sympathetic way.
The commission begins the second phase of the opera’s New Works Initiative. The first included “Silent Night,” which won a 2012 Pulitzer for music by Kevin Puts; “Doubt,” adapted from the Tony-winning Broadway play, and “The Manchurian Candidate,” a new adaptation also written by Campbell that premieres in March 2015.
Johnson noted that operas exploring supernatural themes aren’t new, citing the 19th-century classics “The Flying Dutchman” and “The Tales of Hoffman.” What will be new are high-tech staging elements such as holograms and 3-D imaging.
“An opera doesn’t have to be all Sturm und Drang,” Johnson said. “It can be entertaining, and scary.”
With “The Shining,” you get all three.
Kristin Tillotson • 612-673-7046