SARASOTA - We're used to operas being about gods and goddesses, or about kings and queens. But a very powerful opera opening at the Sarasota Opera House this weekend is about ordinary people -- "working stiffs", as John Steinbeck called them.
"Of Mice and Men” was written by John Steinbeck in 1937 and turned into an opera by Carlisle Floyd in 1970. And that great man might be sitting next to you inside the opera house Saturday night because he's going to be here for opening night.
He's already attending rehearsals. "It's very gratifying when it's as well done as it is here."
And why did he decide to turn the book into an opera? "I thought it was unusually strong element of pathos, because of the murder of Lenny at the very end. There is nothing any more than tragic than having to destroy someone you love for his own sake."
He says the main message of the book and opera is the importance of human attachments. "However flawed, however imperfect, which it certainly is in this case, George and Lenny's friendship is certainly superior to the solitary-ness of the ranch hands who have no attachment."
And he says you'll hear that in the music. "George says it…he has a big dramatic aria in the second act, he says he's not going to settle for such a stingy life. He says he and Lenny are different. We're not alone, you all are."
Booker High teacher Michele Bluestone brought her students to the rehearsal to experience opera, and to understand the theme Of Mice and Men. "The themes of loneliness, relationships, the love between two friends…there are very few books written for students that are about men. And I felt that this was a golden opportunity to see loving relationships."
And this opera may have just done the trick and created future opera patrons. "It’s amazing to see all that come together…the acting, the music, the sets, the movement…and that's what I enjoy most about opera," says Booker High student Pablo Infante.
"Of Mice and Men” opens at the Sarasota Opera House Saturday, March 9th, with six performances through March 23rd.