Edgar Allen Poe's 1842 short story "The Masque of the Red Death" serves as the inspiration for a new opera called "Red Death" that premieres next week in Kansas City, Mo.
The opera will be part of the KC Fringe Festival.
With music composed by Daniel Doss and a libretto by Bryan Colley, it follows Prince Prospero (played by Nathan Granner) as he attempts to escape a plague raging outside the castle walls.
On a "zany" Prospero
"I am singing the role of Prospero in the "Red Death,'" says tenor Nathan Granner. "Prospero is a little zany, but also very brainy and fun. So there is the zany part that’s like, 'Let's have a party.' We’re going to lock the doors. No one gets in. No one gets out. And also, the red death doesn’t get in."
"So he thinks that he has it all worked out," says Granner. "And then, by of course, the end of the opera he finds that he is entirely wrong. (laughs) Just wrong. And he has to face his own mortality."
On the question: What does Edgar Allen Poe sound like?
"It’s fascinating to think about what does Edgar Allen Poe sound like? Or, what do the color of his words sound like?" says Daniel Doss, composer of "Red Death." "So that’s the fun part as a composer is taking the text that is on the page and then thinking, 'Ok, what would this sound like in music?'"
"It’s fun when in a moment the emotion changes very rapidly and it goes into something else and then that sounds like this and it is a fascinating thing," Doss says. "The music that you are creating can represent so many different emotions."
On the folly of a man trying to avoid death
"A lot of people will simply see it as a class issue where it’s rich against the poor," says librettist Bryan Colley, a screenwriter and playwright. "And it’s the rich people thinking that their wealth can protect them from death and that’s a very valid way to view the story, but to me it was more about the whole folly of man trying to avoid death."
On the surprise of a joyful opera
"I am surprised how full of life and how joyful the whole thing is going to be when it’s finally done," Colley says. "It’s like, even though the text really dwells on death, the whole performance of it is so lively and fun and beautiful it’s all about how great life is."
The Mummer Opera Company presents 'Red Death,' directed by Tara Varney, as part of the KC Fringe Festival, July 18-26 at the Off Center Theatre at Crown Center, 2450 Grand Ave., Kansas City, Mo. 816-359-9195.
The “Artists in Their Own Words” series is supported by the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency.