Photo Journal: The Grapes of Wrath Premieres at Minnesota Opera

Classic Arts News   Photo Journal: The Grapes of Wrath Premieres at Minnesota Opera
Is it crazy to make John Steinbeck's novel about a pack of migrant Oklahoma sharecroppers into a highfalutin' grand opera?

Ricky Ian Gordon doesn't think so. The New York-based composer, whose work has for years straddled the border between the classical and musical theater worlds, has spent several years with librettist Michael Korie fashioning an operatic version of The Grapes of Wrath. The result had its world premiere Saturday night (February 10) at the Ordway Center in St. Paul, courtesy of the Minnesota Opera.

What kind of music has Gordon provided for the story of the Joad family? Everything from Coplandesque symphonic grandeur to jazz to square dance: "I'm a trash can in terms of what I've listened to my whole life," he told the Associated Press last week, "and you're going to hear just about all of it."

Baritone Brian Leerhuber stars as Tom Joad, with mezzo Deanne Meek as Ma Joad, baritone Robert Orth as Uncle John, soprano Kelly Kaduce as Rose of Sharon, tenor Robert Honeywell as Jim Casey, and the beloved veteran mezzo Rosalind Elias as Granma.

Directing the production — have a look at the photos below — is Eric Simonson, a member of Chicago's legendary Steppenwolf Theater Company. On the podium is Grant Gershon, music director of the Los Angeles Master Chorale.

The Grapes of Wrath receives four more performances in St. Paul, on February 13, 15, 17 and 18; details and tickets are available at This spring the production travels to Salt Lake City, for five performances by Utah Opera ( May 12-20. Further runs are planned for 2008 at Houston Grand Opera and Pittsburgh Opera.

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All photos by Michal Daniel.

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