Cold Mountain (2015)
Libretto by Gene Scheer & Music by Jennifer Higdon
An opera based on the 1997 historical novel by Charles Frazier.
Gene Scheer skillfully transmutes Charles Frazier’s ultra-discursive, stream-of-consciousness novel into dramatically viable scenes. The taciturn Southern deserter hero Inman thus becomes inevitably rather garrulous, not least in fantasy ensembles joining him with the distant object of his odyssey home, the sensitive Ada. Sensibly, the resourceful runaway slave Lucinda (merely described in the novel) here has dramatic agency and bears witness to an African-American perspective
...that gives Scheer a big spotlight. Words matter in "Cold Mountain" and he is alternately sparse and poetic, and always on point as his characters suffer greatly from their lost conflict and evolve as humans. They sing: Some borders can't be crossed, Some wounds will never heal, Some things you can't forget, Hearts buried beneath regret, In the end, how will I feel? Who you are the war reveals.
The odyssey of the battle-scarred warrior making his precarious way back to a lover waiting at home is the oldest story in Western literature — the stuff of epic poems, plays, novels, movies and many operas. So it is a delight to report that the newest manifestation of this oft-told tale — the opera version of the best-selling novel “Cold Mountain,” just given its world premiere in Santa Fe — captures all of its adventure, romance and pathos in a fresh, vibrant musical idiom.