An opera as monumental and well-crafted as Riders of the Purple Sage can now lay claim to a rightful place in the canon of works about the American West. This is homespun material in contrast to Puccini’s The Girl of the Golden West. It echoes, with marvelous lyricism, the movements of Copland’s Billy the Kid. Riders is literally and figuratively blazing new trails, demonstrating the relevance and value of the age old genre in a dynamic and memorable production. Steven Mark Kohn’s libretto is true to Zane Grey’s classic 1912 novel, and the lingo of ranchers, cowpokes and gunslingers resonates with authenticity in the voices of a superb cast. The story weaves to a climactic finale that merited the unequivocal standing ovation.
— Broadway World
 
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Steven Mark Kohn’s creative output as a composer, arranger, and writer spans the gamut from folk song arrangements premiered at Carnegie Hall to television jingles for Fortune 500 companies and Disney Channel film scores.

Kohn’s involvement in Riders is a natural outgrowth of his love affair with American musical folklore. His three-volume set of American folk song arrangements was premiered at Carnegie Hall by David Daniels and Martin Katz, and recorded on Azica Records by Andrew Garland. This style of music also permeates his dramatic art song cycle, commissioned by mezzo-soprano Jennifer Larmore, and based on the diaries of Mary Chesnut, a confederate woman of the Civil War era.

Kohn has composed scores for several award-winning animated children’s films for PBS, ABC, and the Disney Channel, including Frog and Toad Together, Uncle Elephant, Cousin Kevin, Commander Toad in Space, Morris Goes to School, Ralph S. Mouse, and the Emmy-nominated Runaway Ralph, starring Fred Savage and Ray Walston.

Librettist Steven Mark Kohn talks with an elated Robert Zane Grey after opening night in Phoenix.

Librettist Steven Mark Kohn talks with an elated Robert Zane Grey after opening night in Phoenix.

As a composer and arranger, Kohn has created TV and radio commercial music for companies such as Wheaties, Arby’s, Matrix, Volvo, BP, and Hickory Farms. He has also written and arranged music for Sea World, HarperCollins Audio Books, Second Story Productions, The Sylvia Rimm Show on NPR, and the documentary film Let Them Live for BBC 2 London. The music he created for the popular Health Journeys guided imagery has helped propel the series to more than two million copies sold worldwide. 

As a writer, he is a frequent collaborator of composer Craig Bohmler, having crafted lyrics for Bohmler’s The Quiltmaker’s Gift, Unstoppable Me, The Tale of the Nutcracker, and The Three Redneck Tenors. Kohn is on the composition faculty of the Cleveland Institute of Music as director of the electronic music studio.