The 1997 New Yorker short story that became an Oscar-winning movie, and a million crude jokes, has now inspired an opera. The theatrical version of Brokeback Mountain by American composer Charles Wuorinen debuted in Madrid’s Teatro Real opera house on Tuesday.
The story of Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist, two lonely ranchers who fall in love in the 1960s, and the forces that keep them apart, was a powerful draw for Wuorinen. “The story embodies a contemporary version of an eternal and universal human problem: Two people who are in love but who can’t get it together, who can’t make it work,” he told Reuters before the premiere. “The story is fraught, and has the kind of immediacy that makes it ideally suited for an operatic treatment. It’s not an ideological piece. … It’s just a piece about a universal human problem which doesn’t get resolved.”
Though the libretto was written by the Brokeback writer Annie Proulx, the New York Times notes that there are some distinct shifts from the original and the opera, including expanded roles for Ennis’s wife, Alma, and the addition of a ghost. For her part, Proulx says she “rejoiced” at the opportunity to explore the characters’ love for one another in a way that the short story or film did not.
The opera runs until Feb. 11.