Role models of greatness.

Here you will discover the back stories of kings, titans of industry, stellar athletes, giants of the entertainment field, scientists, politicians, artists and heroes – all of them gay or bisexual men. If their lives can serve as role models to young men who have been bullied or taught to think less of themselves for their sexual orientation, all the better. The sexual orientation of those featured here did not stand in the way of their achievements.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Charles Wuorinen

Annie Proulx, the author of the short story “Brokeback Mountain,” wrote the libretto for the opera of the same title that has been set to music by Pulitzer Prize winning American serialist composer Charles Wuorinen (photo at right). Wuorinen is a New York City based gay classical composer who is married to his manager, Howard Stokar.

The opera version of "Brokeback Mountain," completed in 2012, was originally commissioned by the New York City Opera and Gerard Mortier, but the project was postponed when General Manager Mortier resigned. When he became head of the Teatro Real (Madrid, Spain), Mortier decided to take up the work again and present it there.  

Canadian bass/baritone Daniel Okulitch has the role of Ennis del Mar, and American tenor Tom Randle is cast as Jack Twist. The opera premieres at the Teatro Real (Madrid) on January 28 and runs through February 11.

Proulx’s short story “Brokeback Mountain" was originally published in The New Yorker on October 13, 1997, and was made into an Academy Award winning film in 2005 with Jake Gyllenhaal as Jack and Heath Ledger as Ennis in the lead roles. The story, set in Wyoming, reveals a complex romantic/sexual relationship between two cowboys, in which homophobia stands in the way of their being able to be partners. Ennis is a confused ranch hand who finds himself in a homosexual situation he did not foresee, nor can understand. He is reluctant to show affection towards Jack, and when Jack brings up suggestions about their living together, Ennis declines in a harsh way. Both men marry, but their heterosexual relationships falter. The men meet for infrequent fishing trips, which rekindle their frustrating sexual desires. Both the story and the film have become gay classics.

Baritone Daniel Okulitch, in The Fly (2008):

Tattooed tenor Tom Randle in Wozzeck:

To your blogger's way of thinking, choosing serialist composer Charles Wuorinen to write the score for this opera is appropriate, because the short story's style was powerfully emotional without being overly romanticized. I think that a 19th-century tonal musical setting would not do this story justice.

Wuorinen's catalog of more than 260 compositions emphasizes chamber music and solo instrumental and vocal works, but his most recent commissions tend toward large scale symphonic, operatic and choral compositions.

At age 16 Wuorinen was awarded the New York Philharmonic's Young Composer’s Award, and early in his career he was active as a singer, pianist and organist. In 1962 Wuorinen and fellow composer-performer Harvey Sollberger formed The Group for Contemporary Music, an ensemble that raised the standard of new music performance in New York City. He has taught at Columbia University and the Manhattan School of Music. The premiere of his opera "Brokeback Mountain" will likely garner world-wide attention.


  1. I adore Wuorinen's work. Rarely hear it in concert Lenny Bernstein certainly campained for it! Not sure if he would be my preferred composer for Brokeback.Heggie or Corigliano ? I think i would want a neoromantic score maybe even tobias Picker. Didn't know he had composed this opera will certainly have to hear what he does with it. The 3 piano concerti are certain favorites of this master orchestrator and american composer !

  2. Être gay, n'implique pas avoir du génie.L'histoire en elle même est banale. Deux adolescents isolés baisent ensemble. Nous sommes sûrement assez nombreux a avoir vécu cette situation. Qu'en tirer musicalement ? RIEN !
    .Le livret n'est pas celui de "la forza de destino", hélas !....