On Tuesday, January 28, a stage adaptation of the Academy Award winning film “Brokeback Mountain” premiered at Teatro Real, Madrid’s premiere opera house.
Expatica reports that the show, performed in English, could have been a risky move considering the theater’s largely traditional audiences who have been known to “boo” performances they don’t enjoy or approve of. However, it was also reported that the show was well received in Spain, where same-sex marriage has been legal since July 2005.
Canadian bass-baritone Daniel Okulitch plays the part of Ennis del Mar, the hesitant, closeted gay character originally played by the late Heath Ledger in the 2005 film. American tenor Tom Randle is playing Jake Gyllenhaall’s role of Jack Twist.
“We have seen a lot of people suffering from this taboo in society,” said Belgian director Gerard Mortier. He added that the show is “absolutely universal” and “reflects on society and the human condition.”
The stage version is largely the same as the film: two cowboys posing as straight in the 1960s fall in love while herding sheep together in the beautiful mountains of Wyoming.
The tragic tale of “Tristan and Isolde” is also playing at Teatro Real; Mortier said he intentionally scheduled the performances to play back-to-back.
“Tristan, Isolde, Jack, Ennis—they all don’t understand what’s happening to them but are all prepared to die for the love they feel,” said Mortier.
New York composer Charles Wuorinen, who wrote the score for the operatic adaptation, contacted Annie Proulx, the author of the short story on which the film was based, to write the lyrics.
After the scene where Jack and Ennis spend the night together in their tent for the first time and fall asleep in each other’s arms, the conflicted Ennis wakes up suddenly and sings the same words he speaks in the film, “I ain’t no queer.”
“Ennis is the conservative and he’s struggling with change on a very personal level,” said Proulx. “Jack… is the agent for change.”
The Associated Press released a video about the new opera, including footage from the show.