The operatic retelling of the Dracula legend is by Alva Henderson, composer of Medea, The Last of the Mohicans, and West of Washington Square. Dana Gioia, the poet and chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, wrote the libretto.
The opening-night cast includes baritone Douglas Nagel and soprano Susan Gundunas, who has previously appeared in West of Washington Square. After two performances in Billings this weekend, the opera will be performed at Opera Idaho in November.
In an interview posted on his web site, Gioia said that he saw the vampire story as a natural for opera. "I was struck by how much [Murnau's film] resembled a bel canto opera‹like Lucia di Lammermoor or I Puritani," he said. "It depicted a strong and sensitive woman trapped by tragic circumstances beyond her control.
"Although the vampire is one of the central romantic myths, and opera was the greatest romantic art form, the two never came together," he added. "Nosferatu offered a great myth that was not only natural to opera but still untouched‹an irresistible combination for a poet."
In fact, Henderson and Gioia are not the first to set the Dracula story to music. In 1993, the Canadian Opera Company commissioned an opera from Randolph Peterson, also called Nosferatu, but based on an original story.