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November 7, 2012

Minnesota Opera commisisons 'Manchurian Candidate' from Kevin Puts, Mark Campbell

Composer Kevin Puts, who teaches at the Peabody Conservatory, won a 2012 Pulitzer Prize for his first opera, "Silent Night," commissioned by Minnesota Opera.

That company has now commissioned a follow-up, "The Manchurian Candidate," which Puts will collaborate on with his "Silent Night' librettist, Mark Campbell.

The opera, slated for the 2014-2015 season, will be based on the 1959 thriller by Richard Condon that inspired John Frankenheimer's much-admired film in 1962 starring Laurence Harvey, Frank Sinatra and Angela Lansbury. (Jonathan Demme directed a 2004 remake.)

The plot concerns brainwashed Korean War vets and a communist plot to take over the U.S. government.

Minnesota Opera artistic director Dale Johnson noted that the "the term 'Manchurian candidate' has been bandied about as recently as on the [2012] presidential campaign trail," pointing to "an enduring fascination with conspiracy theories of massive proportions. Strong characters and tantalizing drama make for the best operas, and this story has those in spades."

The commission is the part of Minnesota Opera's New Works Initiative, which has raised nearly $7 million to promote contemporary works. In January, another of the initiative's projects will be premiered by the company: "Doubt," with music by Douglas J. Cuomo and libretto by John Patrick Shanley.

"Silent Night" gets its East Coast premiere in February from the Opera Company of Philadelphia.


Posted by Tim Smith at 11:59 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Clef Notes, Peabody Institute


To Kevin Puts,
Was in the audience for the premiere performance of CHARM and loved and appreciated it!
Will travel to Philadelphia from Westchester County to see Silent Night in February.
Am also looking forward to Manchurian Candidate.
Wishing you the Very Best! Sue L.

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About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
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