Connecting Opera to Austin: Of Mice and Men as seen through literature, theatre, art, film and opera

“Some dreams is so far away an’ those dreams can break your heart, but our dream is so close, so close: just across the street.” – From “Of Mice and Men” the opera, based on the novel and play by John Steinbeck. Copyright 1937, John Steinbeck.

When Austin Opera programmed Carlisle Floyd’s opera adaptation of John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men three years ago, an idea sparked.

What if all the different manifestations of Steinbeck’s work, from the book to the play, movie, opera score, and even artwork, could be brought collectively together? Austin could celebrate its connection, rooted in this classic American work.

This thought was the spark that became this season’s “Community Connections,” a city-wide project partnering local cultural and educational organizations, including The University of Texas College of Fine Arts and Butler School of Music, Blanton Museum of Art, Round Rock ISD, Austin Public Library Friends Foundation and the Mayor’s Book Club, Austin Public Library, Georgetown Public Library, the Texas Book Festival,  and Austin Opera.

Says Tim Staley, Executive Director for the Austin Public Library Friends Foundation, “The Library Foundation selected Of Mice and Men for this year’s Mayor’s Book Club, in large part, to take advantage of the opportunity to partner with Austin Opera and we are very pleased we did. Austin Opera’s involvement enlivened the discussion by lifting Steinbeck’s compelling characters and timeless story off the page and out of the library and setting them on the stage.”

What does this mean? For one thing, John Steinbeck’s ears are probably ringing.

But also, Austinites get to experience for the first time – or revisit once again – a classic work of American literature that explores the economic hardship of the Great Depression, the nature of the American Dream, the power and failings of friendship, and the human capacity for violence and compassion.

Community Connections has included many related events, which means we’re having a lot of fun connecting: from school lectures and performances, book club meetings and panel discussions, library film screenings, opera previews, and art gallery tours; to a free opera dress rehearsal performance, panel discussion with opera composer and “dean” of American opera, Carlisle Floyd, and finally, the grand culmination:  three premiere performances of this modern American opera.

It is based on John Steinbeck’s novella, and Floyd adapted it into an opera that faithfully retells and vividly captures the lives of Steinbeck’s characters, the feel of the era, the bunkhouse, the depressed economy, and Lennie’s tragic story.

Austin Opera is honored to premiere this powerful piece of American history and art. And, we will all definitely be prepped after reading the book in school or for the Mayor’s Book Club, or after seeing the movie at a recent Austin film screening or theatre production—or even possibly hearing snippets of the opera itself at schools or libraries.

As Austin, we’re celebrating together not just Steinbeck, but the American dream, its hopes, and its solid call for connection with one another.

Just a few Community Connection events are left! Join us in the coming weeks as we mark this unforgettable American classic before the big premiere production of the opera.

Blanton Museum Gallery Tour
January 21, 2016 at 12:30 pm
Blanton Museum of Art
Click HERE for a map

Blanton Museum will offer a themed public tour of their collection to explore the relationships and connections between characters in Of Mice and Men.  The tour will include a live musical performance of selections from the opera. For a complete Blanton Museum of Art events calendar, click HERE.

Access Opera: Student Dress Rehearsal Of Mice and Men – SOLD OUT

January 21, 2016 at 7:00 pm
The Long Center
Click HERE for a map

Austin Opera’s ongoing Education Program Access Opera allows students, parents, and teachers to attend the final dress rehearsal for free.  For more information about this program please contact Erin Horan, Austin Opera Education and Administrative Coordinator, at ehoran@austinopera.org.

Of Mice and Men Opera Panel Discussion
January 22, 2016 – 3:30pm
University of Texas, Recital Studio at Bates Hall
Click HERE for a map

Members of the cast and artistic team will discuss Of Mice and Men with a focus on how the medium of opera brings us closer to the characters of Steinbeck’s classic novella.  Reservations are not required for this event.

Of Mice and Men Opera Performances
Saturday, January 23, 2016, 7:30 pm
Thursday, January 28, 2016, 7:30 pm
Sunday, January 31, 2016, 3:00 pm
Long Center for the Performing Arts

A modern American opera written by Carlisle Floyd and performed in three acts. For more details, including tickets, visit austinopera.org.

Austin Opera expresses its deepest gratitude to the following  for their support of our company:Title Production Sponsors Jeff & Gail Kodosky, and Wendi & Brian Kushner, Season Foundation Sponsor, The Georgia B. Lucas Foundation, The Cultural Arts Division – City of Austin, Art Works – The National Endowment for the Arts, and The Texas Commission on the Arts.

This project is funded and supported in part by the City of Austin through the Economic Development Department/Cultural Arts Division believing an investment in the Arts is an investment in Austin’s future. Visit NowPlayingAustin.

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