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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.)

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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."

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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.

PHOTO BY R.R. JONES

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