Stephen King’s The Shining Is Now an Opera, and The Tickets Are All Sold Out

As a sto­ry, The Shin­ing cer­tain­ly pass­es the test of adapt­abil­i­ty: we’ve fea­tured not just the anno­tat­ed copy of Stephen King’s orig­i­nal nov­el that Stan­ley Kubrick used to make his well-known film adap­ta­tion, but its Simp­sons par­o­dy, its reimag­ined feel-good Hol­ly­wood trail­er, its remake in minia­ture as a long-form Aesop Rock music video, and even a board game based on the book. Now The Shin­ing has tak­en its lat­est form live on stage as a pro­duc­tion of the Min­neso­ta Opera, whose dig­i­tal pro­gram you can read above.

“I can’t recall an opera in which the vil­lain is a build­ing,” writes Ron Hub­bard in a review for the St. Paul Pio­neer Press, “but that’s the case with The Shin­ing, an adap­ta­tion of Stephen King’s nov­el about a haunt­ed hotel and a fam­i­ly that win­ters with­in it. While ghosts play a promi­nent role in many operas, the spir­its occu­py­ing the remote Rocky Moun­tain hotel in The Shin­ing are ser­vants to one pow­er­ful, malev­o­lent mas­ter: the build­ing itself.” Hub­bard high­lights the elab­o­rate design that recre­ates the for­bid­ding Over­look Hotel with a “state­ly set,” “swirling, spooky pro­jec­tions,” and build­ing ele­ments that “roll in and out behind screens swirling with pat­terns, cre­at­ing an unset­tling, kalei­do­scop­ic effect.”

As every opera enthu­si­ast soon finds out, no pro­duc­tion can sur­vive by design alone. But The Shin­ing, accord­ing to Hub­bard, earns full marks in oth­er areas as well, includ­ing but not lim­it­ed to its “score full of dis­com­fit­ing themes that clash and col­lide to strong­ly sung and dis­arm­ing­ly believ­able por­tray­als of char­ac­ters alive and oth­er­wise.” He also empha­sizes that the source mate­r­i­al comes not from Kubrick­’s film, but King’s nov­el: “Stan­ley Kubrick took great lib­er­ties with the sto­ry, going so far as to change how the con­flict plays out and resolves. I actu­al­ly found this oper­at­ic ver­sion con­sid­er­ably creepi­er, in large part because we get to know the ghosts bet­ter.”

The nov­el and the movie are vast­ly dif­fer­ent,” says libret­tist Mark Camp­bell in the video above, though they and they opera all tell “the sto­ry of Jack Tor­rance, who, because of eco­nom­ic rea­sons, accepts a job as the win­ter care­tak­er for a hotel in remote west­ern Col­orado.” And before long, as we know whether we’ve read the book or seen the movie, Jack “sub­mits to a num­ber of his demons” before the eyes of his ter­ri­fied and increas­ing­ly endan­gered fam­i­ly. But it remains, Camp­bell says, “the sto­ry of a man who wants to do good — he just did­n’t choose the right job, and end­ed up in a sit­u­a­tion that did every­thing it could to tear him apart.”

The Shin­ing the opera comes com­mis­sioned by Min­neso­ta Oper­a’s New Works Ini­tia­tive, “designed to invig­o­rate the oper­at­ic art form with an infu­sion of con­tem­po­rary works.” Giv­en its com­plete­ly sold-out suc­cess in St. Paul, where it pre­miered, we can safe­ly say that this pro­duc­tion has accom­plished the mis­sion of draw­ing vig­or from a per­haps unex­pect­ed source, and even that it stands a chance of bring­ing its chill­ing artistry (not to men­tion its promis­ing­ly warned-about “strong lan­guage, gun­shots, sim­u­lat­ed nudi­ty, the­atri­cal haze, and strobe light­ing”) to a city near you, prefer­ably in the dead of win­ter to best suit the sto­ry — a time that, in Min­neso­ta, already counts as for­bid­ding enough.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Down­load & Play The Shin­ing Board Game

The Shin­ing and Oth­er Com­plex Stan­ley Kubrick Films Recut as Sim­ple Hol­ly­wood Movies

Watch a Shot-by-Shot Remake of Kubrick’s The Shin­ing, a 48-Minute Music Video Accom­pa­ny­ing the New Album by Aesop Rock

Watch The Simp­sons’ Hal­loween Par­o­dy of Kubrick’s A Clock­work Orange and The Shin­ing

Stan­ley Kubrick’s Anno­tat­ed Copy of Stephen King’s The Shin­ing

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer, the video series The City in Cin­e­ma, the crowd­fund­ed jour­nal­ism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Ange­les Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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