Stephen King’s ‘The Shining’ adapted for the opera

Classic moments from Stephen King’s “The Shining,” such as the twins staring at the audience, are recreated on an operatic stage in this retelling. The show left many fans dissapointed. // Photo by Ken Howard Minnesota Opera

Stephen King’s “The Shining” is a horror novel on the bestseller list. Director Stanley Kubrick picked this novel to portray the imaginative, creepy world of Jack Torrence and the Overlook Hotel, as the story holds all the elements of a haunting as well as the realistic struggles of a fatherhood. The narrative follows Jack Torrance as he takes a job as a winter caretaker of the Overlook Hotel. Undenounced to him, the hotel holds secrets of death, murder and even the hidden secret that the previous caretaker went insane and murdered his family. The strange mystery and quiet isolation of the hotel take hold on Jack and drive him to thoughts of murdering his wife, Wendy, and son, Danny. When it was announced the opera would be performing this horror classic, fans ran to the ticket booth in hopes of securing a seat.

As the rows filled up and the sold-out-show began, all the excitement flipped to disappointment. The themes of King’s novel are extensive in thought and plot; however, the Alliance Theater Opera chose to focus on only one: the family and the roles and responsibilities of the father. The lack of depth in the showing left the audience feeling let down.

Everyone was prepared to be on the edge of their seat to experience the awe of transforming horror into song. The opera producers took a complex story, one studied among academics, and stripped it to one perspective, removing any

mysterytointerpretandmakingit feel like a childish narrative.

The dialogue only added to this immature feeling. The overly exaggerated bliss between the characters during the opening came off as frivolous for the topic of the story. They sprinkled in humor which landed poorly among the audience, in part because the expectations were for a suspenseful thriller — not an awkward genre-mash of comedic horror.

The transition from unencumbered “bliss” to cruel insanity was a hard sell. One moment Jack and Wendy alluded to sex jokes in front of their child, and the next, Jack was trying to kill everyone. The opera rushed the storyline in an attempt to maintain the audience’s attention; however, in doing this, they drained the story of its most valuable asset: suspense.

Much of the mystery and intrigue not only relies on Jack’s slow decline into insanity but also on Danny’s strange psychic power. If there is going to be an adaptation of a story that relies heavily on a young boy, the actor needs to possess the prowess required for the story. Danny, while vital to the movie and the book, is deemed unimportant in the opera.

His moments on stage were brief and undeveloped. He hardly spoke and barely gave any indication about his gift and the weight it carried. His performance left the audience confused and apathetic, feeling like onlookers to a poorly-written comedy show.

Even worse, the most famous parts in the book were not even mentioned in the opera. The most notable was the lack of Wendy discovering Jack’s rough draft infamous “redrum” mystery but that read “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” repeatedly. Instead, the opera skipped the plot point and went straight to locking him in the pantry. The other half of the storyline about Danny and his gift was also underdeveloped and confusing. They briefly mentioned the infamous “redrum” mystery but never resolved it. The audience never got to experience the fear Wendy felt when she realized the phrase her son was muttering for the last few weeks actually spelled “murder” backwards.

These key moments in the book and the movie established the fear and horror needed to drive the story. Without it, the opera felt like it was lacking any sort of fear. The idea of a horror novel adapted into an opera with beautifully ominous notes and eerie depth sounds like a great idea, but wishful thinking is all it was. The opera version of King’s novel “The Shining” undoubtedly missed the mark.