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.
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.
With stunning backdrops that can be considered characters themselves, Phoenix native Ed Mell is displaying his artwork on a large scale for the first time in his career. Hand painting each backdrop, the mesas and mountains fill the stage with danger, excitement and beauty in a mixture of colors and depth. An opera telling the story of typical Arizonan life wouldn’t be complete without beautiful sunsets in the background.
"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..."
Arizona Opera made history Saturday night with "Riders of the Purple Sage," its first world premiere of its first ever commissioned opera. It now has a seat at the big-boys' table among companies three, four times its size in opera-friendly cities like Chicago and New York.
Companies the size of Arizona, which mounts productions in Tucson and Phoenix, don't normally put themselves on the shaky limb of "new works." It's a risky, expensive venture. But at the big boys table, taking a chance is the price of admission, and on Saturday night, with some 1,400 people in the audience, Arizona Opera took that challenge with "Riders of the Purple Sage" — and it paid off.