Directed by Kristin Atwell Ford • Documentary • With Peter Coyote • 2020 • 82 minutes
Riders of the Purple Sage: The Making of a Western Opera follows a classically trained composer as he adapts a dime novel masterpiece into a grand opera. In 1912, Zane Grey’s Riders of the Purple Sage flew off bookshelves around the world and today is recognized by the Library of Congress as “One Hundred Books that Shaped America.”
A century later, composer Craig Bohmler takes shelter in Zane Grey’s cabin during a rainstorm. There, amidst posters from Grey’s Hollywood Westerns, Bohmler discovers a story with the grand dimensions of opera; he decides then and there to mount the legendary frontier novel for the operatic stage. Alongside a team of designers, musicians, singers, and fine art painter Ed Mell, Bohmler translates America’s cowboy culture and sprawling beauty of the West into the realm of Puccini and Verdi.