A Miraculous Journey
Minnesota Opera’s Newest Contribution to the Operatic Canon
Minnesota Opera’s commitment to creating new work over the years has resulted in a wide variety of unique stories seeing the opera stage for the first time ever. The New Works Initiative has sung life into everything from The Shining to Silent Night to Dinner at Eight. And now MN Opera is excited for our latest stage adaptation featuring The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by local author Kate DiCamillo.
DiCamillo’s young-adult novel is a best-selling tale of a stuffed rabbit and his humbling journey to find home after being separated from his loving family, taking him from the depths of the deep blue sea to the streets of Memphis.
“It’s amazing how Kate has been able to weave this story together that talks about humanity and love and a sense of belonging, which I think is at the core of who we all are as human beings,” said MN Opera President and General Director Ryan Taylor.
“I think any time a company takes on the building of a brand new work of art, it’s important to look for the right creative team,” he said. “So to combine that magical story with the text of Mark Campbell and the music of Paola Prestini – who in their own way are magicians in their own work – I think it’s going to be breathtaking once we put all of the pieces together.
In speaking with MPR News in 2020, DiCamillo talked about why it made so much sense to her when MN Opera approached her about adapting her story for the stage.
“Even before the book was actually published, I always had it in the back of my head that it seemed so much like an opera to me,” she said. “It’s like a dream come true.”
For the music, MN Opera has enlisted Paola Prestini to compose this new work, who was recently named a top female composer in classical music by the Washington Post. In describing the composition process to MPR News, Prestini said she wanted to capture the playful innocence found throughout the story while also highlighting its depth and complexities.
“I really do think it’s intergenerational,” Prestini said. “I don’t think it’s the kind of work that will have problems appealing in different ways to different operagoers of different ages.”
The story lends itself to audiences both young and young at heart, making for a performance well-suited for the whole family. Edward Tulane’s focus on love, separation, and a journey home is the kind of story that DiCamillo has dedicated her craft to with other books like Because of Winn-Dixie, The Tale of Despereaux, and Flora & Ulysses.
“My platform is that stories connect us,” DiCamillo told MPR News back in 2014. “My mother read to me, my teachers read to me, and those stories – and sharing those stories with somebody else – changed the course of my life. And I think it can do that for other people as well.”
In terms of how The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane will translate to the live stage, using a puppet rabbit will make for a truly unique performance that blends the childlike imagination found in DiCamillo’s novel with the grand performance art for which opera is so well-known.
“I think that [this adaptation] is going to be a visual feat, in addition to a musical one,” DiCamillo said. “It’s a very dramatic tale, so it just seems well-suited for the drama of opera.”
Edward Tulane is MN Opera’s next step in contributing new work to the renowned operatic canon we all cherish so dearly, and creating new works ensures the artform can continue to live on for future generations.