Did we mention there’s a stampede in Riders? It comes between the shootouts and the avalanche. Opera is a medium where emotions run high. And Zane Grey puts a lot of cowboys in the room. When you bring all that together, you’re going to lose your security deposit.
An opera as monumental and well-crafted as Craig Bohmler’s Riders of the Purple Sage can now lay claim to a rightful place in the canon of works about the American West. In its World Premiere, as part of Arizona Opera’s Arizona Bold Initiative, Riders is literally and figuratively blazing new trails, demonstrating the relevance and value of the age old genre in a dynamic and memorable production.
“Bohmler’s cinematic score also has a very contemporary energy, with flashing violins of the sort that build excitement in the latest “Star Wars” flick. This engaging production is built on sturdy bones: iconic hero-and-villain characters, a suspenseful story and a score that’s studded with soaring, hummable melodies...”
Bohmler’s suave melodies and the distinctive motives will hopefully become more familiar when we get to hear this well constructed music drama a second time. Riders is a fascinating work that deserves to be heard often.
Bohmler’s score had strong references to classic Western film themes — the graceful calm of a cattleman tending his herd at sunset; the quiver of strings and woodwinds when the lone gunman rides in and disturbs the status quo; the dramatic whodunnit feel when Lassiter guns down Bishop Dyer during services in the Mormon church. Conductor Joseph Mechavich brought out dramatic flourishes in the Arizona Opera Orchestra, which did justice the music and Bohmler’s intent that it remind us of the Silver Screen era Westerns without imitating them.
Photo by Quantum Leap Productions
Photo by Tim Trumble