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Opera world looking to Minnesota to see how bright 'The Shining' is

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Is opera a dying art form?

The standing-room-only crowds that will fill St. Paul's Ordway Center for the Performing Arts this weekend would probably say no.

Actually, they might shout it. As in: "NOOO! Don't go in there!"

Mark Campbell who wrote the libretto for the opera "The Shining," tells MPR News he's hoping for that kind of horror movie response from the audience during the opera's world premiere Saturday night.

Stephen King's novels have been turned into movies, TV shows, comic books but never an opera – until now.

Nearly three years ago the Minnesota Opera commissioned Campbell and Paul Moravec, a Pulitzer Prize-winning composer, to come up with an opera based on "The Shining." It's part of the Opera's New Works Initiative, a program that's adding to the operatic catalog.

Music makes the book scarier

Its creators have made it clear that the opera is based on Stephen King's book, not the movie Stanley Kubrick made out of it.

King reportedly disliked the movie but MinnPost reported last fall that he'd read and approved Campbell's libretto for the opera.

Composer Moravec said then: “It wasn’t hard to adapt [King’s book] because it’s practically an opera to begin with. … Opera for me is about three things: love, death and power. … This story has all of those elements in spades."

And the opera has something else, too: spooky music.

Moravec told MPR he thinks the power of the music makes the opera a more terrifying spectacle than Kubrick's movie, saying the singers and the orchestra "plug directly into the central nervous system of the listeners in the audience."

One of those singers is Minnesota native Kelly Kaduce who has the role of Wendy Torrance, wife of the tormented Jack Torrance (Find a synopsis of the story here).

Kaduce grew up on the plains of southern Minnesota and tells the Star Tribune she made her stage debut as Annie with the Winnebago Community Players when she was in fourth grade. The newspaper notes this is the third straight Minnesota Opera production in which Kaduce is the lead soprano.

Future of the opera an open question

So if "The Shining" is a hit, draws new fans to opera, and gets performed around the world for years to come – we can say it all started in St. Paul, Minnesota on May 7, 2016.

On the other hand, if there's a consensus that the opera is a dud, it may never be performed again after its run at the Ordway ends on May 15.

Moravec tells the Associated Press the creative team has rights from King, Warner Bros. and the Kubrick estate only for the opera to be presented in St. Paul. A decision on any future performances will be made after that.

"We hope it's successful and the word gets out," Moravec told the AP. "Fingers crossed."

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