Arizona blends cowboys and opera

Arizona Republic

When people talk about Arizona's "cowboy culture," the opera probably isn't what they have in mind. But that's going to change this winter when Arizona Opera unveils "Riders of the Purple Sage," based on the classic Western novel by Zane Grey.

Written by Valley composer Craig Bohmler, it will be the first-ever world premiere produced by Arizona Opera. It's a bold move by a company that has enjoyed an artistic resurgence in recent years, but the best thing about "Purple Sage" is that it embraces the state's unique Southwestern identity.

Metro Phoenix is still a "young city" compared to the likes of Chicago or New York, but the arts and culture scene here has deep roots. Just consider that plucky little Mesa Encore Theatre will mark its 80th season this year. It's the state's oldest community theater, but only because its big brother, Phoenix Theatre, went pro years ago, serving up big Broadway shows such as "Billy Elliot" and "The Scottsboro Boys" for the 2016-17 season.

Theater, opera, the symphony and ballet are all on the menu, of course... And that's just for starters. It's a big Valley, after all.