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Spooky music: Stephen King goes to the opera

Led by conductor Michael Christie, the cast and orchestra of Minnesota Opera's new commissioned work based on horrormeister Stephen King's bestseller "The Shining" presented a workshop sneak peek on  Friday at the opera's rehearsal space. Front row, center to right: Alejandro Vegas as young Danny Torrance, soprano Kelly Kaduce as his mother Wendy, baritone Andrew Lovato as father Jack (Brian Mulligan will sing the role for the May world premiere) and tenor John Robert Lindsey as Lloyd the Bartender. Photo by CJ Standish.

It's a safe bet that nothing resembling the line, "Did you remember the parking brake?" has ever before been written for an opera. But there's a lot of new ground being broken with Minnesota Opera's new commission of "The Shining," arguably Stephen King's best-known horror novel and also immortalized on film. With music and libretto by two Pulitzer winners (Paul Moravec and Mark Campbell, respectively), the commission, premiering next May, promises to be a noteworthy addition to the opera's new-works initiative, which has previously brought musical adaptations of modern classics including "Doubt" and "The Manchurian Candidate" to the stage.

Both composer Moravec and librettist Campbell were present at a private workshop of the opera's First Act Friday night, held at the company's rehearsal space in the Warehouse District of downtown Minneapolis. Moravec seemed to like what he heard, smiling as he tapped a foot to one of the cinematically grand orchestral interludes used to convey the passage of time. 

Opera supporters in the audience included Margaret WurteleJohn and Ruth HussSara and Jack DonaldsonWilliam White and Gus Blanchard.

"Opera is about three things -- love, death and power," Moravec said. "This story was practically an opera already." He likened the story to the biblical tale of Abraham and Isaac: "He's getting instructions from a higher power to both protect his son and to kill him. It's unresolvable."

He said that, with the aid of multimedia effects, "psychological unease" will build, creating "moments of genuine shock."

The opera follows King's book, not Stanley Kubrick's film, which King famously dislikes. Moravec summed up key differences as "Wendy is smart, Hallorann the cook is a hero, and Jack isn't crazy from the beginning."

Minneapolis rap trio Mixed Blood Majority enters 'Foxes Den' ahead of Dec. 4 album release

Mixed Blood Majority, left to right: Crescent Moon, Lazerbeak, Joe Horton. / Photo by Kai Benson

Mixed Blood Majority, left to right: Crescent Moon, Lazerbeak, Joe Horton. / Photo by Kai Benson


[Special note: This song debut was scheduled to post before today's news of Black Lives Matter demonstrators being shot in north Minneapolis overnight. The band members, whose album is heavily steeped in racial issues, wished to add this note: "Our thoughts are with those still camped out in north Minneapolis."]

Twin Cities fans have heard a diverse array of music from Mixed Blood Majority’s members over the years, including two different releases already this year from co-frontman Crescent Moon (Alexei Casselle of Kill the Vultures). But they haven’t really heard them like the way they sound on the all-star trio’s sophomore album, “Insane World.”

The 11-song collection -- which drops Dec. 4 – is something of a bipolar set, in a good way. Crescent Moon’s and No Bird Sing rapper Joe Horton’s seething, bleary-eyed view of race relations and socioeconomics (all too timely subjects locally) are wildly offset with some of the rowdiest, liveliest, most dancefloor-ready beats of producer Lazerbeak’s career. It’s as fun a record as it scary, as visceral as it is provocative.

After issuing the dark, epic, wordy track “Same Thing Coming” a few weeks ago, MBM unveils the more straight-ahead, simplistic fist-pumper “Foxes Den” today (posted below).  The track has been a hit at recent MBM live shows and sounds like it could be a future show-opener, although it actually falls at No. 8 on the new album’s track list.

Mixed Blood Majority will test the rest of the record’s live translation in a big way with a Dec. 11 release party at First Avenue, which will also feature P.O.S.’s first main room set in a while as well Grrrl Prty (ticket info here).

Pre-order info for "Insane World" is up at the Doomtree site.

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