Santa Fe Opera Plans Work Based on Oscar Wilde, Plus "Cold Mountain" Starring Nathan Gunn

By Adam Hetrick
11 Aug 2011

Nathan Gunn
Nathan Gunn

The Santa Fe Opera has commissioned a new opera based on the life of playwright Oscar Wilde, which will debut in 2013, as well as works by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Jennifer Higdon and Judith Weir.

General director Charles MacKay announced that the company intended to roll out three new operas in as many years, beginning with Oscar, composed by Theodore Morrison, in 2013.

Higdon has been commissioned to compose an opera based on the Charles Frazier novel "Cold Mountain," which will have its world premiere in 2015 starring Nathan Gunn. Also planned is Weir's Miss Fortune in 2014.

Oscar and Cold Mountain are the first operas for Morrison and Higdon. They are co-commissions and co-productions with Opera Company of Philadelphia.



Morrison is collaborating with librettist John Cox on Oscar. Cox will co-direct alongside Kevin Newbury. The opera uses Wilde's poem "The Ballad of Reading Gaol" for part of its inspiration. It also incorporates documents, letters, conversations and remarks by Wilde's contemporaries as sources for the libretto.

The role of Wilde was written for countertenor David Daniels, who will star. The cast will also include Heidi Stober (as Ada Leverson), Dwayne Croft (as Walt Whitman) and William Burden (as Frank Harris). Lord Alfred Douglas, Wilde's younger lover, will be played by a non-singing dancer.

Cold Mountain will have a score by Higdon and a libretto by Gene Scheer. According to Santa Fe Opera, Cold Mountain is the "powerful account of one soldier, W.P. Inman, who deserts the Confederate army as the war is coming to an end and makes his way back to his home on Cold Mountain."

Baritone Nathan Gunn (Camelot), known to theatre audiences for his appearances with the New York Philharmonic, will portray W.P. Inman.

Weir is the composer and librettist of Miss Fortune, which incorporates folk musical idioms into the Sicilian folk tale called "Sfortuna." According to Santa Fe Opera, "She has updated the story to the 21st century making it a topical morality tale about the ups and downs of life and the inconsistencies of fate. The opera is enlivened by a group of acrobats called 'Fates Gang.'"