‘Riders of the Purple Sage: The Making of a Western Opera’ premiers Feb. 5


A documentary film celebrating the collaborative art of America’s “cowboy culture and opera’s hallowed traditions,” will be shown during a film premiere 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 5 at Scottsdale Center for the Arts.

A documentary about the artistry behind Arizona Opera’s new opera, “Riders of the Purple Sage, The Making of a Western Opera,” is a collaboration between the work of author Zane Grey (1872-1939), American composer Craig Bohmler and librettist Steven Mark Kohn, and Arizona’s “visual poet laureate,” painter Ed Mell.

“Riders is a provocative story of the settling of the West,” said Emmy Award-winning filmmaker and Arizona native, director Kristin Atwell Ford, in a prepared statement.

“It’s our story told through the writing, music, and paintings of some of our nation’s finest artists. In centuries to come it will be known as Arizona’s distinct cultural contribution to the art form of opera. That’s what this film premiere celebrates.”

In 2012, Mr. Bohmler is said to have discovered the famous novel when he escaped a thunderstorm and took shelter in the Zane Grey Cabin Museum in Payson, Arizona, according to a press release.

Five years later, the musical adaptation of Grey’s “beloved Western celebrated its world premiere as a fully-staged grand opera with a state-of-the-art set designed by one of America’s preeminent landscape painters,” the release said.

Since Zane Grey’s novel was published in 1912, Riders of the Purple Sage has been translated into 20 languages, made into five Hollywood movies, and earned a spot on the Library of Congress list of “One Hundred Books that Shaped America.”

The opera is the first time Grey’s work has been adapted for the live stage, noted the release.

“Riders of the Purple Sage absolutely transformed our organization and our community’s perception of our art form. We’re proud and honored to have a documentary of this caliber capture the creation of Arizona Opera’s first world premiere as we mount the first revival of Riders on our Main Stage this season,” said Arizona Opera President/General Director Joseph Specter in a prepared statement.

Scottsdale’s Museum of the West will present the documentary during Western Week 2020, which culminates with Parada Del Sol.

“Our mission is to immerse people in the unique story of the West. The Riders documentary captures a powerful chapter in our regional history and the lasting impact of artists who have expanded the narrative from Old West to the New West,” said Michael J. Fox, “Western Spirit” museum director/CEO, in a prepared statement.

“The opera, Riders of the Purple Sage, and the documentary are rare projects that create synergy between organizations,” said Jennifer E. Sands, Scottsdale’s Museum of the West trustee/film co-executive producer.

The opera results from the efforts of Arizona Opera, ASU’s Herberger Institute, the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust, Classical Arizona/PBS, and Zane Grey’s West Society.

Film collaborators include Arizona Community Foundation, Scottsdale’s Museum of the West, Zane Grey Cabin Museum, the Navajo Nation, and the National Park Service for the documentary produced by Quantum Leap Productions; shot in Arizona and at OPERA America’s National Opera Center in New York City.

Sponsors for the event --- hosted by Scottsdale’s Museum of the West with partners Quantum Leap Productions, Arizona Opera, and honorary chairs and executive producers Billie Jo & Judd Herberger --- include Castle Hot Springs, Arizona’s first resort.

A limited amount of tickets are available to the public for $18 each. Proceeds from the evening will support the film’s global distribution. A ticket can also be donated for a film student at the ASU’s Herberger Institute for $12.

Tickets are available at the Scottsdale Arts box office: 480-900-3263.

Or, see: scottsdaleperformingarts.org/event/riders-of-the-purple-sage-the-making-of-a-western.