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Riders of the Purple Sage: The Making of a Western Opera
A documentary by Kristin Atwell Ford

82 minutes, color, 2020

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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.

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"Riveting. An excellent portrayal of the making of an opera...takes the audience on a fascinating journey behind the scenes of a truly sparkling production. Highly recommended." - Video Librarian

"The film is as powerful and evocative in its own way as the piece it reveres and celebrates."- Herb Paine, Broadway World

"Riders of the Purple Sage: The Making of a Western Opera captures two worlds – the hardscrabble splendor of America’s cowboy past and the high-tech fusion of music, art and story that creates a modern opera." - Michael Grady, Arizona Magazine



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