Encore Michigan

Ricky Ian Gordon’s ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ at MOT for four performances in May

Preview April 28, 2019 Encore Staff

DETROIT—Michigan Opera Theatre will present Ricky Ian Gordon’s opera, The Grapes of Wrath May 11 through 19.

This heart-wrenching opera in two acts, based on the classic novel by John Steinbeck, tells the story of the Joad family on their quest for survival during the 1930s Dust Bowl. Featuring folksy, jazz-inspired music by Ricky Ian Gordon, and a libretto by Michael Korie, this production is directed by James Robinson and conducted by Michael Christie.

From MOT’s news blog:

“While historically a European art form, opera has expanded over the years to include works by composers and librettists from around the globe. These operas explore a broader range of human experiences, including American stories ranging from Civil Rights to baseball to life in Appalachia, often sung in English.

“In The Grapes of Wrath opera, composed by Ricky Ian Gordon with a libretto by Michael Korie, John Steinbeck’s Great American Novel is turned into the Great American Opera.

“In the midst of the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression, the story follows the Joad family on their quest for survival, traveling from drought-ridden Oklahoma to the farms of California. Along with hordes of other migrant workers, the Joads struggle to find work and living wages, constantly facing starvation and injustice.

“Korie said the novel explores themes of corporate indifference and the failure of the American dream.

“When people see the opera, they’re bowled over how true it is, even though it took place 90 years ago,” he said. “You realize these themes are cyclical in America. Inequities you believe to be resolved turn out not to be.”

“Gordon said the novel is significant, because its themes resonate worldwide, even though it is an American story.

“The story is about people who have very little who are asked to give it up by the people who have a lot. Those who have nothing give their bodies and their kindness and generosity, while those who exploit them live off of their sacrifices,” he said. “The story is current, universal and biblical.”

A co-production with Opera Theatre of St. Louis, it will be sung in English with supertitle projections, with a running time of about 2 ½ hours. Tickets are available online at michiganopera.org.