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Des Moines Metro Opera Announces World Premiere of A THOUSAND ACRES and $1.5 Million Gift

Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Jane Smiley, A Thousand Acres is a modern retelling of King Lear set on a farm in Iowa in the late 1970s.

Des Moines Metro Opera Announces World Premiere of A THOUSAND ACRES and $1.5 Million Gift

On July 9, 2022, Des Moines Metro Opera will add a new American work to the operatic canon with its world premiere of A Thousand Acres with music by Kristin Kuster and libretto by Mark Campbell. The evening-length work is based on Jane Smiley's 1991 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name and will be a centerpiece of DMMO's 50th Anniversary Season in 2022. Set on an Iowa farm in the late 1970s, this powerful reimagining of Shakespeare's King Lear was awarded the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Ambassador Book Award for Fiction. "As this seminal novel approaches its 30th anniversary later this year, the occasion is right to bring the words of a major American novelist to life on the opera stage," said Michael Egel, General and Artistic Director. "The choice of A Thousand Acres for an opera company in Iowa is the perfect melding of subject and locale and an ideal one for us in celebration of our 50th Anniversary. The novel is perfectly placed in history to receive an operatic treatment - modern enough that we know these characters and their stories but just distant enough to provide some perspective and lend the story a universality that will make it an enduring contribution to the American repertory." The production will be led by Marshall and Judy Flapan Music Director and Principal Conductor David Neely and envisioned for the stage by director and dramaturg Kristine McIntyre.

In support of A Thousand Acres, the company has received a $1.5 million leadership gift from Linda and Tom Koehn in anticipation of the Company's upcoming 50th anniversary campaign. Linda Koehn is a past president of the board and was a 2020 recipient of Opera America's National Opera Trustee Recognition Award. She and Tom are admired benefactors of the arts community in Des Moines. "We are honored to represent the breadth of support for Des Moines Metro Opera on the occasion of its 50-year anniversary. For us, it is a celebration of the many people for whom story telling through opera in Iowa is a deeply personal commitment," said Linda. The Koehns' leadership gift creates an endowed position, the Linda Koehn General and Artistic Director, currently held by Michael Egel. "I am honored by Linda and Tom's extraordinary generosity. This gift is both transformational and personal," said Egel. "During her tenure as president of the board, Linda was an early advocate for me. I still rely on her counsel and advice. It was on her suggestion that I first read A Thousand Acres. She was instrumental in its selection as our world premiere opera."


Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Jane Smiley, A Thousand Acres is a modern retelling of King Lear set on a farm in Iowa in the late 1970s told from the point of view of Ginny, the oldest of three daughters. Larry Cook, a prominent farmer, announces at a family gathering that he has decided to divide the thousand acres between his three daughters. While Ginny and Rose acquiesce to their father's wishes, Caroline demurs and enrages her father. Ginny tries to hold the family together but Rose, recovering from cancer treatment and fearful for the fate of her two daughters, is unrepentant in her criticism both of Caroline's selfishness and Larry's bullying nature. As Larry descends into rage and dementia, all the buried family secrets are finally laid bare. When Rose forces Ginny to confront secrets of the past, Ginny realizes that nothing on the farm can ever be as it was.

A Thousand Acres is family drama writ large. It is a story with great scope and broad appeal with distinctive female characters that explores ideas of family conflict, patriarchy, legacy and the strength and fragility of the ties that bind us together, all told through the eyes of its central female protagonist. Learn more >

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