The Manchurian Candidate: Show Preview


ah-dale-6-24-13-255Artistic Director Dale Johnson chooses repertoire, performers, conductors, directors, designers, and leads all aspects of artistic planning.

The Manchurian Candidate, by composer Kevin Puts and librettist Mark Campbell, will be Minnesota Opera’s 53rd world or American premiere. As a community of art lovers, we should be very proud of this accomplishment since few other companies in the country can claim such an honor. Minnesota Opera believes that championing new works that speak to audiences about our lives and the world today is an important part of the company’s vision and the future of opera. You will continue to see Minnesota Opera commit to new works and present works from prominent American composers. We also look forward to commissioning operas geared towards the next generation of young singers.

Throughout its history, opera composition has been inspired by plays, novels, and legends. Minnesota Opera’s New Works Initiative production of The Manchurian Candidate is based on the 1959 novel by Richard Condon. His plot follows Raymond Shaw, a solider and son of a very famous and powerful political couple. Shaw’s brainwashing was part of a conspiracy meant to facilitate the assassination of the Presidential candidate and overthrow the U.S. government.

What initially drew Minnesota Opera and the creative team to this story was the character of Eleanor Iselin, Shaw’s mother. She is arguably one of the greatest contemporary villains, and as we all know, evildoers make some of the best operatic characters. Counteracting her maliciousness is a gallant young soldier, Ben Marco, who tries desperately to unlock the mystery of his reoccurring nightmares. These three characters, Eleanor, Ben, and Raymond, drive the gripping story forward to the inevitable shattering conclusion.

Librettist Mark Campbell has fashioned a swiftly moving, tense libretto that tells the story at breakneck speed. Kevin Puts, winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize in Music for Silent Night, seems to be influenced by an almost Stravinsky-like leanness and spike. (Those of you who remember Silent Night were undoubtedly drawn to the emotional journey of Puts’ descriptive music.) Campbell and Puts’ The Manchurian Candidate is a thrilling rollercoaster ride that has us on the edge of our seats, questioning what’s really going on behind the government’s closed doors.

We are fortunate to have Music Director Michael Christie leading the Minnesota Opera Orchestra. He’s known throughout the U.S. and Europe for his expertise in conducting new works. Stage Director Kevin Newbury has been an audience favorite ever since Nixon in China, his Minnesota Opera debut. Recently, he directed three of the most prominent new operas in the country: Doubt at Minnesota Opera, Oscar at The Santa Fe Opera, and The Gospel According to Mary Magdalene at San Francisco Opera.

Our world premiere production of The Manchurian Candidate stars soprano Brenda Harris as Eleanor Iselin and baritone Matthew Worth as her son Raymond Shaw. After making his company debut in The Elixir of Love, tenor Leonardo Capalbo returns to create the crucial role of Ben Marco. Robert Brill chose the “boxing ring” of a political convention for his set design and Jessica Jahn’s costumes hearken back to classic 1960s style.

Be the first audience to see this magnificent new opera and make history with Minnesota Opera!

Dale Johnson

Artistic Director