Review: Opera Colorado's THE SHINING

Now through March 6

By: Mar. 06, 2022
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Review: Opera Colorado's THE SHINING If you're like me, you've seen the movie The Shining, and you haven't read the book. If you're more familiar with the movie, you might also know Stanley Kubrick's film takes quite a few liberties with author Stephen King's original story, adding iconic moments like the blood elevators, Danny's talking finger, the appearance of the twins, and even Jack's demise.

If your experience is more with the book, you might appreciate the recently adapted opera version better. Currently playing with Opera Colorado, Moravec & Campbell's The Shining is being presented for the first time since its premiere with Minnesota Opera.

Review: Opera Colorado's THE SHINING According to the program, King actually prefers the opera over the movie...which isn't saying much, seeing as he essentially hates Kubrick's film. The story itself is pretty similar, though. Jack Torrance takes the job as winter caretaker at the Overlook Hotel, where he'll spend a few months holed up with his wife and son, Wendy and Danny. It's revealed almost immediately Jack has a history with alcoholism and abuse, which concerns the hotel. While the film focuses more on the haunted aspect of the hotel, the opera focus is on the family's emotional journey with Jack's descent into madness.

Jack's main duty is to keep the boiler from exploding by releasing its pressure twice a day. His son Danny meets the hotel cook Dick Halloran, who confides with him a similar second sight he calls "the shining," which allows them to communicate while Halloran is away for the season. Halloran warns Danny of the dangers in the hotel.

Review: Opera Colorado's THE SHINING While in the boiler room, Jack discovers a box of clippings describing the hotel's sordid past, including an incident where the former caretaker, Delbert Grady, murdered his wife and daughters. Jack meets Grady's ghost, who convinces him he must also murder his family because "they must be corrected" and "husbands and fathers have responsibilities."

The spectacular set and projection design, which is the same used by Minnesota Opera, is easily the best part of the production. Aside from a few terrifically emotional vocal performances from the lead characters and some gorgeous orchestral moments, the opera really struggled to give me any kind of chills.

Review: Opera Colorado's THE SHINING The lyrical dialogue wasn't written well enough to be performed with what felt like atonality. I had hoped for many more haunting melodic moments and dissonance, perhaps even a bit of poetic lyricism, and it rarely happened. I imagine much of the dialogue was pulled from the book, where it would feel more at home.

The chorus was also incredibly underused, only really present during group numbers on stage or as the singing voice of Danny, one of the only characters to speak throughout the show. I would have enjoyed hearing the chorus create more of a vibe during most scenes.

While I'm generally more familiar with the musical theatre side of performance, I didn't expect to see The Shining musical. Where the opera lacked for me was more opportunities to channel a more terrifying version of its own genre. The only truly frightening part for me was the seminal bathroom scene, where a straight-up naked grey lady (in a bodysuit) grabbed Danny and pulled him into the tub with her. I craved so many more moments like that.

Review: Opera Colorado's THE SHINING Perhaps I'm just far more comfortable with the story I knew from the film, but it was challenging for me to see how this version had any more emotional depth, aside from Jack's decision to sacrifice himself for his family. The ghosts weren't anywhere near scary, and even the musicality wasn't as jarring as it could be.

Despite that, how cool is it that opera is making bold moves like this to stay relevant to its audiences? I hope to see more risk being taken as the genre continues to bring new crowds in, and I hope Opera Colorado continues to stay at the forefront of it.

The Shining plays Opera Colorado through March 6.


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