an blog | AJBlog Central | Contact me | Advertise | Follow me:

Brokeback Mountain, the opera: Mortier’s full casting is confirmed

Casting has been released for next January’s premiere of the operatic version of the most successful gay love story in modern cinema.



Madrid’s Teatro Real presents the World Premiere of


Charles Wuorinen’s long-awaited opera, 
a powerful story of doomed love
between two cowboys in Wyoming

Based on the short story by ANNIE PROULX
Libretto by ANNIE PROULX
Conducted by TITUS ENGEL
Directed by IVO VAN HOVE 


bass-baritone DANIEL OKULITCH


World premiere performances:
 January 28 & 30, 2014
February 1, 3, 5, 7, 9 & 11, 2014


Tickets on sale October 2, 2013, available online
From the press release:
Brokeback began its operatic life when Mortier heard about Wuorinen’s wish to write an opera based on Annie Proulx’s extraordinary 1997 short story, and set out to commission the score. Proulx’s Brokeback Mountain (made into an Academy Award-winning film by Ang Lee) was first published in The New Yorker and subsequently in Proulx’s celebrated collection of Wyoming stories, Close Range. In 2007, Wuorinen contacted Proulx with the proposal of turning Brokeback into an opera, and the author signed on to write her first libretto.
proulx and wuorinen
Photo: Annie Proulx and Charles Wuorinen in Wyoming

The Collaboration

Charles Wuorinen

“When I first saw the film version of Brokeback Mountain I knew there was operatic material at hand.  Then on reading the original, I was astonished at the differences between the famous story and the famous film.  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.

Around this time Gerard Mortier became aware of my interest in Brokeback, and offered to commission the work for the Teatro Real in Madrid, with the first performances now scheduled for January and February of 2014.

Annie Proulx and I began consultation on the work in 2008 with a week spent at the excellent Ucross Foundation (an artists’ retreat) near Sheridan, Wyoming.  There I had the chance to go into the mountains that provide the model for Brokeback, and to hold several conversations with Annie Proulx. The result of this and many subsequent exchanges was a splendidly concise and apposite libretto, in which Proulx, through her characteristically laconic style, conveys character and scene with great efficiency. An essential property of any libretto which aspires to project drama is this kind of efficiency, since sung language greatly slows the delivery of words.  I count myself very lucky to have been given such an excellent exemplar.”

The Score

Charles Wuorinen

“My earlier opera Haroun and the Sea of Stories, despite its serious themes, is essentially a comic piece.  After finishing it I wanted to write a tragic opera, andBrokeback Mountain seemed the perfect choice, since it displays an eternal dilemma in the dress of present-day relevance.
The music of Brokeback Mountain conveys the harsh magnificence of the Mountain where the protagonists first meet. Visiting Annie in Wyoming, seeing the land where the story is set and the characters shaped was invaluable, and it made a deep impression on me. Sometimes the score evokes the icy clarity of the high-altitude freedom the characters enjoy there. But the Mountain also breathes and storms, and the music projects this turbulence as well—especially when it transfers into the interior lives of the characters and their interactions in the human world. And the tragedy of the two principals, their doomed love, calls forth the most lyrical flights in the score.”

Mortier on Brokeback Mountain

Gerard Mortier

“The importance of Annie Proulx’ novel is that ‘great love’ is ‘great love’ even if social reflections and conventions are opposed to it. Therefore I programmed the world premiere next to the production of ‘Tristan und Isolde.’ 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 understood that he could support Proulx’ idea through his music but also that he needed a great formal conception to avoid sentimentalism, just as Wagner did.
Next to the film of Brokeback Mountain, which was rather sentimental and closer to Puccini, Wuorinen will serve the essential dimension of Annie Proulx’ fabulous novel.”
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...


  1. Daniel Okulitch and Tom Randle? Fine performers, but that’s an awfully big age difference between Ennis and Jack …

  2. Paul D. Sullivan, MA. says:

    There was some talk, years ago, about bringing Broke Back Mountain out as a musical,

    and, surprisingly, this never happened. It would seem from reading here:

    the opera was commissioned by The New York City Opera in 2008 for a 2013 premiere, which apparently fell through.

    I have heard Wuorinen’s pieces performed a few times in concert, but like most music from contemporary composers, I don’t like it, though I realize many do.

    I enjoyed the motion picture very much, and though it may be considered “sentimental”, it was the first time gays were portrayed as serious characters and not as ridiculous, insulting stereotypes, which had been the usually Hollywood fare.

    On the lighter side, here’s the wonderful Nathan Lane doing a musical spoof of BBM.

    • Yes Addison says:

      I did not consider the film sentimental, and unless Mortier has been done injustice in a translation, he seems not to realize that the “fabulous” Proulx source material he praises was a short story of about 30 pages, not a novel.

      Proulx, for her part, praised the film extravagantly, for its power and its faithfulness. I hope the opera is as successful.

  3. now let’s see about getting this performed in Russia! ;-)

an ArtsJournal blog