• Based on Zane Grey's Riders of the Purple Sage (1912), the most famous novel by the best-selling Western author of all time

  • Novel has sold more than two million copies in 20 languages, and has been adapted as a film five times

  • World premiere production also built on the established work of famed Southwest artist Ed Mell, who created hard sets and stunning digital landscapes in his scenic design


  • Major themes include women's independence, religious fundamentalism, guns in society, vigilante justice, and abuse of power

  • Social philosophies explored include rugged individualism, manifest destiny, and the pioneer aesthetic

  • Character arcs include struggles of identity, faith, finding home, confronting abuses of power, and revenge vs. forgiveness



  • Influenced by Carlisle Floyd, Stephen Sondheim, Kurt Weill

  • Utilizes musical idioms of Western film soundtracks

  • Sweeping orchestral score and accessible melodic set numbers

  • Straddles worlds of opera and musical theater – multiple styles used to suit the text and story


  • "Suave melodies and distinctive motives...a fascinating work that deserves to be heard often." –Opera Today

  • "Monumental and well-crafted, Riders can lay claim to a rightful place in the canon of works about the American West. A dynamic and memorable production...resonates with authenticity in the voices of a superb cast...that merits the unequivocal standing ovation." –Broadway World

  • "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. There’s no denying the edge-of-your-seat energy..." –The Republic

  • "Bohmler’s score had strong references to classic Western film themes — it reminds us of the Silver Screen era Westerns without imitating them." –Arizona Daily Star


It was a giant leap forward for Arizona Opera in February when it produced its first-ever world-premiere work, “Riders of the Purple Sage,” and it was a huge success for the Phoenix-based company, drawing national attention — and outperforming “Carmen” for single-ticket sales at the box office.

“It blew away even my wildest expectations, financially or in terms of the public response,” said executive director Joseph Specter. “This is what great art can do. It can energize a community.”
— The Arizona Republic


  • World premiere production by Arizona Opera in Feb/Mar 2017

  • Company's first commission and world premiere

  • Single ticket sales $390,924 – 3rd highest in company's 45 seasons

  • Best-selling show for Arizona Opera in 12 years

  • Total attendance for world premiere run – 7,796



Header image by Robert Pflumm, courtesy of Quantum Leap Productions