The reviews are in! On May 7, the Minnesota Opera premiered Paul Moravec’s opera The Shining to excited and enthusiastic cheers. Opening night played to a packed, standing-room only crowd filled with eager young opera-goers and seasoned opera-veterans alike. Based directly on author Stephen King’s 1977 best-selling novel, the opera featured a libretto by Mark Campbell, stage direction by Eric Simonson, costumes by Kärin Kopischke, and screen design projections by 59 Productions, as Michael Christie conducted and led a stellar cast of singers. The Shining continues its sold-out production on May 12, 14 and 15. Read on for a sampling of some of the opera’s rave reviews!
“A Masterful Musical Dramatist” — “The excitement was palpable at St. Paul’s Ordway Center…as the audience sat waiting for the world premiere of Paul Moravec’s hotly anticipated new opera, The Shining. The story and its characters are virtually embedded in modern cultural consciousness, and the prospect of operatic adaptation was tantalizing. Pulitzer Prize-winner Moravec and his accomplished, prolific librettist Mark Campbell wisely chose to hew closely to Stephen King’s 1977 bestselling novel…Armed with this rich source material, Moravec proves to be a masterful musical dramatist. As the characters ricochet across an outsized spectrum of emotions, the orchestral fabric is a prime engine of the narrative, deftly shape-shifting from opulently romantic to subtly ominous to outright terrifying. The scary parts sound like a first-rate horror movie score, and I mean that as a compliment—the music is impressively creative, maximally effective, and it continues to outdo itself throughout the piece. — Joshua Rosenblum, OperaNews
“Electrifying Music” — “On a beautiful Saturday night in St. Paul, an eager crowd made its way to [The Ordway], each person holding one of the hottest tickets in America: a ticket to the world premiere of The Shining…The new opera surges forward on the strength of electrifying music by Paul Moravec. The singers, performing a libretto by Mark Campbell, float atop the orchestral score like uncertain vessels on a roiling sea as their stay as demons awake to torture them. It’s a hell of a ride…‘Is it scary?’ It is…Moravec has created a soundtrack to the chaos within Jack Torrance’s heart, and it’s truly terrifying.” — Jay Gabler, Classical MPR
“A Resounding Yes” — “Look out! There’s trouble again at the Overlook Hotel…[and] the much-awaited opera version of ‘The Shining’ received its premiere…If the evening’s chief question was, can a legitimate, engrossing opera be fashioned from an unlikely source — a popular horror-thriller tale — the answer offered in this eye-filling multimedia production with its Romantic score by Paul Moravec and deft libretto by Mark Campbell, along with a first-rate cast, was a resounding yes…Moravec’s score incorporates propulsive, percussion-driven sounds for what could be called the ‘mad scenes’, along with appropriately eerie moments as tension-builders, but most of the music is tonal and Romantic [with] soaring, exultant lyricism and yet doesn’t sound old-fashioned… — Michael Anthony, Special to The Star Tribune
“An Unqualified Success” — “…Thanks to the inspired intersection of Erhard Rom’s stately set and the swirling, spooky projections of 59 Productions, Minnesota Opera is premiering [The Shining], the scariest opera you may ever experience…From Paul Moravec’s score full of discomfiting themes that clash and collide to strongly sung and disarmingly believable portrayals of characters alive and otherwise, “The Shining” is an unqualified success…Moravec’s music creates tension and drives the conflict. It’s a demanding score, but conductor Michael Christie and the Minnesota Opera Orchestra shape it with a deft blend of strength and subtlety. And director Eric Simonson deserves high praise for bringing so many imaginative elements into brilliant balance…The Shining seems destined for longevity.” — Rob Hubbard, Special to the St. Paul Pioneer Press/TwinCities.com
“Haunting and Poignant” — “Gothic horror lies at the root of many popular operas…Updating these conventions for a 21st century audience, composer Paul Moravec and librettist Mark Campbell created The Shining…The new opera version is based upon King’s original narrative…This decision retains the horror elements which made the [Kubrick] movie so successful while restoring the themes of guilt, responsibility, and retribution which make King’s story so powerful. The result is a work that features all the colors of the operatic palette… Moravec and Campbell create a score that embellishes all the dread and mayhem that appear on stage…The Minnesota Opera has created a version of King’s novel that not only is haunting in its treatment and performance but surprisingly humane and poignant in its appeal. This is one adaptation of a popular work worth seeing by opera buffs or by anyone who has a shine for gripping stories embellished by beautiful music.” — William Fietzer, Examiner.com
“Solid, Effective, and Successful” — “The Saturday (May 7) premiere of The Shining by Paul Moravec at the Minnesota Opera was clear evidence of the vigor of contemporary opera in America. The opera, based on the Stephen King novel… is a solid piece of work, dramatically effective, musically successful, and destined to be popular…The Shining received a stunning production that realized the full potential of the score.
Librettist Mark Campbell has done an effective job of reducing King’s 400+ page novel into a two-hour opera. The essential elements of King’s tale are present…[and] the orchestral writing is especially outstanding. The orchestra supports but never obscures the vocal lines. Sounds from the orchestra fit the text and mood, and the final powerful cataclysm is one of the most effective moments of musical pictorialism I can recall…I have no doubt that The Shining will go on to other productions, especially in the United States where Stephen King’s works loom so large in the popular culture. Many more audiences will stand and cheer.” — Peter Alexander, Sharps and Flatirons.com