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Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain remains one of the most talked-about films of the last decade and now it is being turned into a stage spectacle. An opera based on Annie Proulx’s short story opens in Spain this week.
As an opera, Brokeback Mountain will look at the complexities of the illicit relationship between two cowboys in Wyoming. Proulx was happy that composer Charles Wuorinen asked her to write the libretto since opera “would give room, which the short story did not, and which the film was not particularly interested in doing,” she told The Associated Press.
In addition to new levels of the story, Wuorinen hopes to bring Wyoming alive on stage like never before. "It is very beautiful, as the film shows," he told the AP, "but it is definitely not sentimental. It is not a romantic landscape. It's a deadly one...it's dangerous."
One of the challenges for Wuorinen is getting a soft-spoken main character to sing. Ennis Del Mar, who Heath Ledger played in the film, is a quiet man, so the composer decided to express his changes with his delivery.
“His whole progress in the opera starts completely inarticulate,” Wuorinen told The New York Times. “He can’t speak at the beginning of the piece. He nods, and when he’s prodded, he shouts.”
He picked Sprechstimme for the character. It’s a tool where the character mixes singing and speaking. As the story develops, Ennis stops relying on this to communicate. “This is a gradual process throughout the opera, until finally, when he’s alone and he’s lost everything at the end, he’s able to express himself,” Wuorinen explained. “But, of course, it’s too late.”
Lee’s 2005 film took home three Oscars, including Best Director. It was also nominated for Best Picture and Ledger was nominated for Best Actor.
Brokeback Mountain the opera opens at the Teatro Real in Madrid on Tuesday and runs through Feb. 11.