Sunday, March 13, 2022

The Shining Opera at Opera Colorado

The Denver Performing Arts Center Complex

One of my many favorite books is Stephen King's The Shining. The novel, published in 1977, remains one of the scariest psychological thrillers I have ever read and made me an avid Stephen King fan, eager to read all of his novels afterward.   I still can remember turning the pages of The Shining holding my breath and my heart racing, almost fearful to continue reading, yet anxious to know what the outcome would be. 

This is a synopsis of the novel from the publisher, Doubleday, for those who never read it:

"Jack Torrance, his wife Wendy, and their young son Danny move into the Overlook Hotel, where Jack has been hired as the winter caretaker. Cut off from civilization for months, Jack hopes to battle alcoholism and uncontrolled rage while writing a play. Evil forces residing in the Overlook – which has a long and violent history – covet young Danny for his precognitive powers and exploit Jack’s weaknesses to try to claim the boy."

I was very excited to hear that Opera Colorado was going to present the opera The Shining, this year! The opera version first came to operatic life at the suggestion of stage director Eric Simonson and the Minnesota Opera. Composer Paul Moravec and librettist Mark Campbell agreed to partner on the project, but they had to first acquire Stephen King's approval, promising that they would stay true to the novel.  It seems King was not happy with the interpretation of his novel by the 1980 film The Shining, produced and directed by Stanley Kubrick and co-written with novelist Diane Johnson.  

Happily, King did approve of Campbell's libretto, and the opera made its premiere audience May 7, 2016, at Minnesota Opera. 

To read more about the making of the opera, and see some photos from the Opera Colorado February/March 2022 production read these links at the Opera Colorado website--here and here

Scenes from Ellie Caulkins Opera House

My husband and I have enjoyed attending operas our entire marraige, first at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City when we lived in Brooklyn and now at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House, at the Denver Performing Arts Center, since we moved to Denver in 2013.  In my husband's upbringing, opera was always playing at his family home, as his father was an avid fan of Italian operas.  I was introduced to opera in high school by a very enthusiastic music teacher who had her classes learn and watch Verdi's opera La Traviata--her favorite opera--as part of our curriculum. 
To see a new and very contemporary themed opera was going to be unusual for us but I was very excited to see how one of my favorite novels would come to life on the stage.

We usually dine out on the evening of an opera. Although we were happy that the Ellie Caulkin Opera House was still taking covid precautions by requiring full vaccination and wearing of masks, we felt comfortable enough with the low covid infection rates in Denver that we could risk eating indoors at a restaurant. The performance we saw was on a Tuesday evening, and not many local restaurants were open in Downtown Denver, so we decided to dine at Kevin Taylor's at the Opera Housewhere we enjoyed a delicious three-course dinner.

The Shining Opera Program

The opera certainly made King's characters come uniquely alive! The animation and projections of 59 Productions enhanced the interesting rolling rooms set design of The Overlook Hotel on stage, along with its madding wallpaper pattern illumination moving between scenes. The basement furnace room was also as eerie and forebodding as my imagination imagined it when I read the novel. The conductor Ari Pelto lead the orchestra as it played the dramatic music by Paul Moravec.

Baritone Edward Parks sang the role of Jack Torrence and did a wonderful job portraying the emotions of a man possessed by inner demons and slowly going mad. Unlike the movie character, this Jack Torrence made you feel sorry for him as the ghosts from his past childhood abuse appeared, tormenting him and leading him away from his strong intentions to correct the mistakes he made in his life.
Bass-baritone Kevin Deas performed as Dick Hallorann and sang the most stirring arias in the opera, both welcoming the family to the hotel and recognizing Danny's gift of precognitive powers which he calls "the shining," and also his reconnection with them at the end. You can watch a synopsis and a rehearsal performance of Kevin Deas at this link.
Soprano Kelly Kaduce performs as Wendy Torrence--you can hear her sing a touching aria from the opera, "I Never Stopped Loving You," at this link. As King implied, she does more than "scream" as she did in the movie.
Micah VonFeldt played the role of Danny. His part was spoken,not sung and was appropriately childlike, and very believable as someone fighting demonic possession.

The final curtain call bow of The Shining Opera performers

We really enjoyed the opera and would not hesitate to see it again in the future! The music, words, performances and set were all impressive and rekindled the feelings I had at the genius of Stephen King's imagination when I first read his novel.

Just as an aside--did you know that The Shining was actually inspired by an overnight stay Stephen King had at The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado? Supposedly, in 1974, Stephen King and his wife, Tabby, spent a night at The Stanley Hotel, and that night, King had a nightmare about his 3-year-old son running and screaming through the hotel's corridors being chased by a fire hose. It was so real and disturbing to King that the idea of a haunted hotel in a remote location was the inspiration for his novel.  

The beautiful and historic Stanley Hotel has a reputation for the paranormal, although most guests have a wonderfully preaceful and luxurious experience there.  

I actually experienced an unusual occurrence when we stayed at the hotel for an anniversary--you can read about it on this post.  I still get chills thinking about it!  Thankfully, we have been back many times, and never had a supernatural experience ever again, so perhaps it was only my overactive imagination at the time? I like to think I encountered a friendly ghost. 

Have you ever encountered a ghost? What was the scariest book you ever read and could you imagine it presented as an opera?

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Jeanie said...

What a wonderful and long awaited evening out! I can see the operatic potential in "The Shining." (I have a fave story on that book -- I was reading it, alone at the cottage on a windy night, with branches scraping the screen. Scared out of my wits!).

The Chihuly is glorious there and it looks like a beautiful venue and well done show. What a terrific experience and evening!

Barb said...

I loved seeing your photos and reading about the Shining opera (I read the book long ago). Your evening,including dinner, sounds wonderful. I think you and Vinny are more back to normal than we are! Staying at both the Hotel Colorado in Glenwood Springs, and the Hotel Delaware in Leadville, we had some "ghostly" happenings. In Glenwood, a ceiling fan over my bed spontaneously turned on in the middle of the night. I was freezing but was sleeping in the room with friends and thought someone in our party had started it. However,the next morning when everyone was freezing, and we learned nobody had turned on the fan, we attributed it to the Hotel Colorado's wandering ghost. In Leadville, the shower started spraying in the middle of the night and woke Bob and I. Later, the front desk attributed it to a naughty ghost who sometimes turns things on randomly. The Leadville Hotel actually had the ambiance of a haunted place! (This was many years ago - don't know if they've remodeled it.)

William Kendall said...

An impressive building and interior.

My ghostly encounter was at an apartment I once lived in. My housemate was away on both occasions and a radio would come on. And the blues would be playing. There was no reason for that to come on.

Angie said...

Pat - I don't recall any supernatural experiences, and I don't generally read "scary" novels. I must admit The Shining seems an odd choice for an opera - I am glad you felt it was an appropriate interpretation! Thanks for linking to Mosaic Monday!

Penny from Enjoying The Simple Things said...

Turning The Shining into an opera would have never occurred to me! I took a ghost tour in Savannah and took a lot of pictures. Did not see any ghosts while on the tour but my pictures showed several!

stevebethere said...

Loved the photos and what a fab time I am extreley envious heheh!I do like a bit of scariness too ☠️

Have an operatictastic week 👍

Gillena Cox said...

Thanks for your mosiac and info thr the opera. Have a nice week


Amila said...

All these are lovely photos. Sounds like an interesting opera. This opera house looks attractive too.

Lowcarb team member said...

The Shining seems an unusual choice for an opera, but I am pleased you enjoyed it.
I did enjoy seeing your photographs.

Enjoy the week ahead.

All the best Jan

Veronica Lee said...

The Shining an opera ??!!! How interesting!

Sounds like you had a wonderful evening.

Happy Tuesday, Pat!

handmade by amalia said...

Stephen King meets the Opera, what will they think of next? Certainly sounds like fun, glad you enjoyed it.

NCSue said...

I've never been able to develop a taste for opera, but I always love seeing photos of operas and opera houses - so elegant!
Thanks for sharing at

EricaSta said...

What an interesting Post, I must tell to my husband. Why? He is a great Stephen King Fan and has read all his books. A opera must be perfect. Of course we know the Film...

Happy MosaicMonday

Tom said...

...spectacular architecture.

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

It is such a beautiful Hotel and the meal you had at the restaurant sounds absolutely elegant. We did watch the Shining on Netflix after one of our visits to Estes. And although I really and truly always have at least one book going, usually two, unbelievably I have never read Stephen King. Your review has me wishing to remedy that. (Not sure about the opera, but that is a moot point living here in un-cultured Florida!) Denver really is a great place with both easy access to outdoor beauty and the amenities of a major city.

Spare Parts and Pics said...

Wonderful post. I really need to visit that hotel. And I really need to read the book. One of my all time favorite movies.

Jim said...

Very interesting.

Yogi♪♪♪ said...

I've never read the Shining and the movie is one of those where I have seen all of it in bits and pieces over the years but not the whole thing in one sitting.

That being said, King's "It" is the scariest book I have ever read.

I don't believe in ghosts but I have seen a few things in my life. I have always felt an incredible sense of peace in grave yards. Years ago on a business trip to Topeka Kansas I got up very early to find a couple geocaches in an old cemetery. I didn't find the caches but I spotted two women in old timey clothes strolling through the glands just before the sun come up.

I was a latecomer to opera. My first was Turandot when I lived in Houston. I had season tickets for years and loved the big Italian operas and some of the more dramatic contemporary works. I haven't been to one in years. The Shinning sounds great.

Michelle said...

I do find it a bit unusual that The Shining would convert to opera, but I am glad to hear that you thought it was great. Thanks for linking up.

Joanne said...

That sounds like such a fun night out! I found most of King's books to be quite scary but I know I went through a phase where I just could not get enough of them. I tend to be a pretty big chicken though so I like tamer things and often pass of things that could be paranormal-ish as just being my overactive imagination.

Rambling Woods said...

What a lovely night out.....Michelle