Pop Opera

If Stephen King’s The Shining can be an opera, editor Tad Simons thinks these books should be, too.

St Bernard dog close up of the eyes and nose

Regular readers of this column know that I am not a big fan of holiday shows, which is why I was so happy to hear that the Minnesota Opera, in 2016, is giving the full opera treatment to Stephen King’s psycho-thriller The Shining. This news not only relieves me from having to discuss the Guthrie’s A Christmas Carol or Lorie Line’s annual holiday glitz-fest, it gives me hope that opera as an art form might one day debase and trivialize itself to the point where it’s actually popular.

Adapting The Shining is a good start—but it’s only a start. If the Minnesota Opera really wants to appeal to the masses, it needs to lower its literary standards considerably. Here are some suggestions:

Fifty Shades of Grey

If produced, this would automatically become the most popular opera in history. Not because it would bring to opera the sort of kinky S&M sex play that Puccini and Verdi were too prudish to write, but because it would save thousands of people from the pain and suffering of reading the book.

The Twilight Saga

As everyone now knows, vampires and werewolves are much sexier than zombies, because when you rip a zombie’s shirt off, the rest of his torso comes off too. Teenage vampires and werewolves are the sexiest of all—and would make great opera—because they are trapped in impossible relationships, have dramatic death scenes, and agonize over the big questions like who to kill next and who gets to eat the heart. Besides, werewolves already know how to howl in a fine tenor.

Atlas Shrugged

A vast swath of the reading public would thank Minnesota Opera for providing an entertaining CliffsNotes version of the longest, most tedious book ever written. The opera version could go on for 30 or 40 hours and it would still feel like the blink of an eye compared to the torture of Ayn Rand’s hyper-selfish prose. Everything about Rand’s characters is overblown, though, which makes them that much more operatic. The only problem: The economy must survive Rand’s influence on Congress long enough for cash to still be considered a viable currency.

A Million Little Pieces

James Frey’s bogus rehab memoir is the perfect subject for an opera, because whenever the composer and librettist run into a problem, they could just make something up. The flexibility of infinite fictional possibilities is immensely freeing and might finally produce the drug-rehab story everyone wants to see: the one in which a giant storm pounds the coast of Malibu and all the city’s rehab facilities slide into the Pacific Ocean, never to be seen or heard from again.


If the movies have taught us anything, it’s that the public loves huge vicious beasts that rip people to shreds. They also love talking dogs. Put the two together in an opera and voilà, you’ve got a giant rabid dog that can verbalize its apparent displeasure with the human race. The climactic aria, “Kibble. Kibble. Every day, Kibble,” would become an instant hit on iTunes, and yet another Stephen King book would get way more attention than it deserves.