The wild, untamed story behind Arizona Opera’s upcoming adaptation of Zane Grey’s Riders of the Purple Sage.
Serendipity is the watchword of Riders of the Purple Sage – the classic Zane Grey novel of Western adventure that will return to Arizona as, of all things, an opera.
If an aspiring dime novelist hadn’t tried to capture the soaring grandeur of the West in words; if a treasured Arizona painter hadn’t wondered how to wrap that grandeur around a human story; or if a restless composer hadn’t discovered the dead novelist’s ephemera while ducking out of a Payson rainstorm, local opera fans would have nothing more in their Christmas stocking than the possibility of watching the nice lady from La Bohème get sick. Yet again.
Instead, this unlikely group of artists found a common bond in a century-old tale, so singing tuberculosis will have to wait. The long and distinguished catalogue of performance opera – Carmen, Aida, The Barber of Seville – will soon include a story much closer to home for Arizonans. Composed in Scottsdale and polished through workshops in Downtown Phoenix, Riders of the Purple Sage will conjure the Old West via artistic devices that predate America herself. And Arizona Opera’s unlikely posse – a dead author, a live painter, and a composer who ran from the rain – will herd it into Symphony Hall in May 2017.