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November 21, 2017

Listen to a New Western Opera on Nov 25, with Libretto by CIM Composition Faculty


Photo from Arizona Opera
Photo credit: Arizona Opera

CIM Composition faculty member Steven Mark Kohn is in the spotlight again for Riders of the Purple Sage, the new opera debuted by the Arizona Opera last spring. Listeners worldwide can tune in on Sat, Nov 25, to a radio broadcast of the production based on the Zane Grey novel of the same name. The opera will air on KBAQ at 1 p.m. EST. For a full list of the broadcast locations worldwide, click here.

After the opera’s premiere, azcentral.com wrote: “‘Sometimes you gotta kill a man,’ sings the black-clad Lassiter, in a pithy expression of the Wild West ethos. ‘Sometimes it’s the only way.’ Set in the red-rock country of southern Utah in 1871, ‘Riders’ is the story of Jane Withersteen, a devout Mormon who runs afoul of church elders for her refusal to marry a man she doesn’t love (and thus to surrender control of her ranch with its life-giving spring and wealth of cattle). The plot, adapted by librettist Steven Mark Kohn, also boasts cattle rustling, a quest for revenge, and a mysterious Masked Rider. It’s unapologetically melodramatic and action-packed from the get-go.”

Kohn’s involvement in Riders is a natural outgrowth of his love affair with American musical folklore. His three-volume set of American folk song arrangements was premiered at Carnegie Hall by David Daniels and Martin Katz, and recorded on Azica Records by Andrew Garland. This style of music also permeates his dramatic art song cycle, commissioned by mezzo-soprano Jennifer Larmore, and based on the diaries of Mary Chesnut, a confederate woman of the Civil War era.

As a writer, he is a frequent collaborator of composer Craig Bohmler, having crafted lyrics for Bohmler’s The Quiltmaker’s Gift, Unstoppable MeThe Tale of the Nutcracker and The Three Redneck Tenors in addition to Riders of the Purple Sage.

Read more about Kohn’s experience writing the libretto.