The Opera Adaptation of The Long Walk

“The Long Walk is a masterpiece, a story that needs to be told in a form that needs to be used in this manner. Live theater is never as compelling as when music is a part of it; a piece like this brings out all the best aspects of opera.” – B.A Nilsson, Metroland

In the summer of 2015, the opera adaptation of my memoir, THE LONG WALK, had its debut at Opera Saratoga. The Utah Opera gave the show it’s second run in March 2017, and it will return to the stage in Pittsburgh in January 2018.

The process of the whole thing–seeing yourself appear on stage, hearing your words sung, meeting so many talented people who devote so much creative energy to your story–well, the journey is long and strange and humbling and gratifying, for sure. I wrote about it for Lit Hub. And CJ Chivers did a profile on the show for the New York Times Magazine.

The piece was commissioned by Lawrence Edelson at the American Lyric Theater. Their mission is to bring new opera to new audiences, as you can read here. Stephanie Fleischmann wrote the libretto, and Jeremy Howard Beck the score. I feel fortunate to now call both of these artists friends.

Jeremy and Stephanie developed the opera over several years of workshops and readings. Quil Lawrence attended one, and reported on it for NPR. Quil also interviewed Heather Johnson and Danny Belcher, who signed on as (my wife) Jessie and I for the duration of the piece’s development.

Danny and Heather talked to Albany Public Radio prior to opening night, about the challenges of playing people who are, unusually in the opera world, still alive.

I attended the shows, was fascinated by the surreal experience, but it all went so quickly. The Opera Saratoga production got great reviews from Metroland, Amy Biancolli at the Albany Times Union,  and, importantly, the influential Opera News. But opera is not musical theater, it doesn’t set up for multi-month runs. After the summer festival, we all split up. Cast, crew, families, we all headed off to new projects. It felt a bit like a post-deployment hangover, honestly.

Fortunately, we got to do it again in Salt Lake, some of the cast back, and some new friends to be made. It talked to Radio West about the project, and the show got a great review in the SLC Tribune. Now, on to Pittsburgh.