From Sage to Stage: Part II

Phoenix Magazine

Last fall, we told you how a team of music-theater misfits struck on the idea to adapt Zane Grey's Riders of the Purple Sage — regarded by some as the quintessential Arizona novel — into the Southwest's first fully homegrown opera. The second installment of our series reunites you with the composer, writer and set artist as they soldier through their shared creative crucible.

The first musical moments of Riders of the Purple Sage charge out of the gate: lofty horns, pounding drums and a big, sprawling score that has you expecting The Magnificent Seven.

Craig Bohmler, who composed the music for Arizona Opera's upcoming adaptation of the celebrated Zane Grey novel, says that's the idea.

"The first minute and a half, we let the audience know they're in a Western," he says, air-conducting a recording from his Scottsdale studio. "They haven't been to a Western opera before. So we give 'em a nod to the West they know. We give 'em some tunes. They say, 'Okay, I like these tunes!' And THEN... we challenge them!"

How that challenges unfolds – and what it will look like – is still a work in progress. In the play Amadeus, Mozart creates operas "as if taking dictation from God." In real life, the process is more human and collaborative. "People think opera is a single art form," Riders soprano Karin Wolverton says. "It's really about 20 art forms smashed together."

Read the full feature in Phoenix Magazine!