Tom Randle (Jack Twist) & Daniel Okulitch (Ennis del Mar). (Pic: Javier del Real)

Gay cowboy love is coming to the highbrow world of opera.

A new stage adaptation of the short story and acclaimed film Brokeback Mountain is set to open in Spain

The tale of doomed love between two American cowboys started life as a 1997 short story of the same name by Annie Proulx and went on to become a 2005 Academy Award winning film directed by Ang Lee and starring Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal.

Now an opera version in two acts, with the libretto written by Proulx herself, will premiere in Madrid at the Teatro Real (Royal Theatre) this week.

Composer Charles Wuorinen, who first proposed the opera in 2007, worked with Proulx in Wyoming near the mountains where the story is set. She wrote the words while he composed the music. He described it as a “delightful collaboration”.

Wuorinen said that the film and opera versions diverge in some ways. “The tone of opera is very different. It emphasises the difficulty, in fact the impossibility, of the love between these two characters. The film is a much softer, much longer treatment,” he said,

The production stars Canadian bass-baritone Daniel Okulitch as Ennis and American tenor Tom Randle as Jack.

“There were so many magnificent things about Heath Ledger’s performance but at the same time it would be limiting to me to try to recreate what he did,” said Okulitch, while Randle admitted that he still hasn’t seen the Brokeback Mountain film, reported Reuters.

The Teatro Real website notes that there are many parallels between Brokeback Mountain and the classic Richard Wagner opera Tristan und Isolde, with which it is alternating at the theatre.

“We are presented with a love on a cosmic scale, and one that is rejected by society. It is a love story set in a stunning landscape of mountains, only to be destroyed by society’s expectations, just as in Wagner’s opera”.

The production runs from 28 January to 11 February.

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