True West Magazine
Thank the Grand Canyon.
Long before it was a national park – before it was even a game preserve, thanks to President Teddy Roosevelt – this steep-sided canyon of grandeur inspired one of the greatest storytellers of the American West.
He was a writer who touched hundreds of millions in 20 languages, telling stories of Old West ethics and codes – in glory and shame – while painting verbal scenes so vivid, the landscape became a living character.
Yes, Arizona's Grand Canyon deserves credit because the nearly 34-year-old Zane Grey was smitten to his soul after experiencing the canyon on his honeymoon in 1906 – on his wife's dime – and on a hunting expedition in 1907.
Once he experienced the spellbinding Grand Canyon – named a national park 13 years after he first saw it – he found the land and people he would bring alive in some nine million words in 58 Westerns that became 113 movies and a TV series to a worldwide audience of 250 million.
Now his most popular work – a bestselling Western novel, already fives times a film – is being re-imagined by Arizona Opera to tell the 105-year-old story, Riders of the Purple Sage, all over again. The opera's world premiere – the first ever produced by the company – opens in Tucson on February 25 and 25; in Phoenix, on March 3 through 5.
How fitting that this Western opera should be a tale with issues that still ring true to this day – women's rights, fundamentalist religion, guns, the search for home. Zane would have been proud.