Opera Philadelphia Presents Cold Mountain

On Friday, February 5, Opera Philadelphia will premiere the East Coast debut of Cold Mountain, based on the award-winning historical novel by Charles Frazier.

On Friday, February 5, Opera Philadelphia will premiere the East Coast debut of Cold Mountain, based on the award-winning historical novel by Charles Frazier. The opera is composed by Jennifer Higdon and Gene Scheer and directed by Leonard Foglia.

The opera is a fascinating way of presenting history in a new and exciting way to the public. The story follows Civil War deserter W. P. Inman (played by Nathan Gunn) as he makes his way home to his love, Ada Monroe (played by Isabel Leonard), over the tough terrain of North Carolina. Ada, once a Southern lady of privilege, adapts to years of deprivation through the help of her friend Ruby (played by Cecelia Hall). Inman’s travels home are tormented by Home Guard marshals and the real possibility that the war’s violence has diminished his human capacity to love.

There will be five Cold Mountain productions in Philadelphia: February 5 at 8:00 p.m., February 7 at 2:30 p.m., February 10 at 7:30 p.m., February 12 at 8:00 p.m., and February 14 at 2:30 p.m., all performed at the Academy of Music.

The opening of the opera will coincide with One Book, One Philadelphia, a project by the Free Library of Philadelphia that promotes literacy and encourages the Philadelphia community to come together by reading and discussing a single book. Each year, lectures, discussions, films, workshops, exhibitions, and performances illuminate both specific and universal themes within a featured selection. This is the fourteenth year the Free Library has sponsored this program, which will run from February 2 to March 3o, 2016.

When Gene Scheer first took on the role as librettist for Cold Mountain, he traveled to Asheville, North Carolina, to meet Charles Frazier and his wife, Katherine. During this trip, Frazier took Scheer on a drive through the woods up to the real Cold Mountain.

“As we drove, ascending higher and higher, I wondered whether Charles was nervous about handing over his novel to me. Maybe that was because I was nervous myself about finding a way to transform his book into an opera–into a treatment that would convey not just the power of the story, but the power of Charles’ beautiful language,” says Scheer.

“My primary goal in writing this libretto was to produce something that would be faithful to the spirit of the novel, to create the scaffolding around which Jennifer Higdon could re-imagine the story through her inspired music,” says Scheer. “When adapting something for an opera, my starting thought is not ‘How can I improve this work?’ but rather ‘How can I enable music to explore the feelings woven into the marrow of the source material?'”

The opera was given its world premiere on August 1, 2015, at The Santa Fe Opera House in New Mexico. This production was directed by Leonard Foglia and conducted by Miguel Harth-Bedoya.

A few years ago, Foglia was invited to a Fourth of July celebration at Arlington House in Virginia. The house was once home to Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

“After Lee went off to lead the Confederate Army, Union troops occupied his property with its enviable view of our nation’s capital,” Foglia noted. “To ensure he never returned, they began burying Union officers in his wife’s garden, then outside his front door. As the dead multiplied, they eventually surrounded the house completely and filled the grounds. Arlington National Cemetery was born.”

Foglia recalled, “While being given a tour of the cemetery that day, I learned that more Americans have been killed by other Americans than by any foreign entity since the founding of this country. More than 600,000 Americans died in the Civil War.”

The Northeast premiere of Cold Mountain will be a fascinating adventure into the mental effects of war and the journey of self-discovery.

To purchase tickets, click here.

To watch a preview of Cold Mountain, click here.