The Shining at the Minnesota Opera

Photo by Ken Howard // Courtesy of MN Opera

Photo by Ken Howard // Courtesy of MN Opera

A hotel in a blizzard. All work and no play. Lloyd the bartender. Room 217. The boiler room. Croquet mallets smashing through doors. One man’s descent into madness. The Shining made its world premiere from the Minnesota Opera at the Ordway Center for Performing Arts Saturday, May 7—a mix of dazzling multimedia and heartfelt, frantic vocals.

You remember Steven King’s story. Jack and Wendy Torrance agree to be the winter caretakers at the Overlook Hotel. Their son, Danny, has a telepathic sensitivity to the hotel’s haunted past. Those malevolent spirits work on Jack’s cabin fever, convincing him to give in to his inner demons and do away with his family.

Photo by Ken Howard // Courtesy of MN Opera

Photo by Ken Howard // Courtesy of MN Opera

Soprano Kelly Kaduce returns to the Ordway stage to premiere the role of Wendy; she also starred in Rusalka and Tosca earlier this season. Brian Mulligan brought warmth and depth to the manic implosion of Jack—his transition to evil feels more nuanced and natural than you would expect a grand stage performance to deliver. Perhaps the loudest cheers on opening night were for fifth-grader Alejandro Vega, who gave a convincingly possessed and tortured turn as Danny, and bass Arthur Woodley, whose reassuring strains gave remarkable presence to Hallorann, the cook who first notices Danny’s ESP.

Vega (l) and Woodley (r), Photo by Ken Howard // Courtesy of MN Opera

Vega (L) and Woodley (R) // Photo by Ken Howard, courtesy of MN Opera

The operatic adaptation does away with many of the visuals made famous by the movie (no moving hedgerows or tidal waves of blood from the elevator, for example) and instead focuses on the mental breakdowns more prominent in the novel. By inserting Jack’s abusive father as a recurring background character, we sympathize with a psychotic descent that could have otherwise felt rushed in the course of two short hours.

The Minnesota Opera constructed a scene that makes it clear that the characters are subservient to the machinations of the hotel itself—the set dwarfs its occupants, with rooms swaying in and out of view, pulsing and bleeding like a heartbeat. Intense visuals are projected on stage throughout the performance—some arresting (“redrum”), some more shadow-puppet hokey—but always contributing to a disorienting sense that there’s more to the hotel than meets the eye.

Photo by Ken Howard // Courtesy of MN Opera

Photo by Ken Howard // Courtesy of MN Opera

The Shining is the tenth work to debut from the Minnesota Opera’s New Works Initiative since 2009—a program that has become the envy of opera companies around the United States. New operas commissioned through the NWI have received worldwide acclaim and production, including the 2012 Pulitzer Prize in Music for Silent Night (which was also penned by Shining librettist Mark Campbell). Next season, the initiative will debut Dinner At Eighta comic opera based on the play by George Kaufman and Edna Ferber.

Photo by Ken Howard // Courtesy of MN Opera

Photo by Ken Howard // Courtesy of MN Opera

All the seats are sold out, but there’s a slim chance the final three performances of The Shining may still have a few standing room only ($28) tickets available. Call the Minnesota Opera Ticket Office 10am–5pm, M–F at 612-333-6669.