A Renowned Wordsmith Returns To Colorado With An Opera About Transgender Identity

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Photo: Mark Campbell horizontal
Opera librettist Mark Campbell

Editor's Note: This story originally aired February 20, 2017.

Opera Colorado’s upcoming production breaks a lot of rules in the opera world.

The chamber opera “As One” features just one character onstage -- a young transgender woman named Hannah. Hannah’s part is sung by two people: a female mezzo-soprano and a male baritone. Their voices intertwine in the music and the plot follows Hannah as she explores questions about her identity.

This clip of the song "To Know" gives a sense of the opera's unusual sound and feel. The production includes an onstage string quartet instead of a pit orchestra and a sparsely decorated stage with a multimedia backdrop:

“As One” has found uncommon success since debuting in 2014. It’s been performed in cities across the country. Opera Colorado’s production, March 2-4, mark the first performances in Colorado.

Librettist Mark Campbell, who graduated from Denver’s Thomas Jefferson High School and the University of Colorado’s theater program, spoke with Colorado Matters host Ryan Warner about the chamber opera. Campbell developed the project with composer Laura Kaminsky and co-librettist and filmmaker Kimberly Reed.

Campbell's career includes work on the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Silent Night” by Kevin Puts, an adaptation of Stephen King’s “The Shining” and a new opera about Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.

CPR Classical will air Opera Colorado’s production of “As One” twice this spring:

  • Saturday, April 29 at 1:30 p.m.
  • Wednesday, May 3 at 7 p.m.

“As One” marks the latest contemporary opera staged by Opera Colorado. The company premiered “The Scarlet Letter” by Lori Laitman last year.