The fevered brain child of composer Daniel Steven Crafts and cartoonist Shannon Wheeler, Gonzo Opera has become the best-kept dirty little secret of high-brow culture. Gonzo Opera productions have delighted audiences on several continents (look out, Antarctica, we're coming!), with a sweet little home base in Albuquerque.
June 2017: And the Winner Is ... A 'Ms. American' Beauty Pageant on live TV goes hopelessly wrong -- who doesn't want to see that?! -- complete with a lecherous emcee, sex-change operations, and other Gonzo surprises. A vicious yet hilarious satire on "meat market" beauty pageants -- if you didn't see this one, you missed out! Libretto from the original play
by Thomas B. Woodward
Music by Daniel Steven Crafts
What is Gonzo Opera?
First of all, despite its subject matter, it is real opera, and not a parody of the genre as are many works over the last few years that have called themselves "opera." It uses beautiful, classically-trained voices and allows them to demonstrate all the marvelous attributes of traditional vocal technique. The Gonzo style is full of melody (something sorely lacking in most contemporary opera) -- memorable melody that shows off the voices in the best possible light.
But secondly ... Gonzo Opera takes as its subject matter outrageous comedy/satire, subjects heretofore completely foreign to opera. It is as contemporary as any movie -- no pathetic, dying heroines here. Shannon Wheeler's popular comic strip, "Too Much Coffee Man," was made into an opera with great success. It was not so much the traditional opera audience who came to see it, but Shannon's audience (20- to 40-year-old comic book aficionados). This was the first of the Gonzo operas.
Gonzo Opera is designed to be portable and inexpensive to produce. This should prove a boon to smaller opera companies as:
As an art form, opera desperately needs a swift kick in the pants -- the same kind that was given it by the verismo movement in the late 1800s. When the overwhelming percentage of works in standard repertoire are 100-300 years old, something is severely wrong. One need only compare the quantity of good and memorable new operas from the second half of the 20th century with the second half of the 19th. The 21st has so far fared little better.
Gonzo Opera is intended to breathe new life into a music genre that is in danger of becoming a museum attraction, despite the enthusiasm of its devotees, and the exceptional quality of its singers.
Daniel Steven Crafts
The first Gonzo Opera was "Too Much Coffee Man," dreamed up by Emmy Award-winning composer Daniel Steven Crafts and Shannon Wheeler, creator of the wildly popular "Too Much Coffee Man" comic strip. It's the story of a hapless coffee lover and his unrequited passion for the barista who plies him each day with the nectar that makes his world complete. Can he win her over before Espresso Guy steals her heart?
Join the movement to revitalize opera! While we ultimately intend Gonzo Opera to be self-sufficient, we are just starting out and contributions at this point are particularly welcome. Help us continue with a second season.
Checks can be made out to New Mexico Performing Arts Society (earmarked for Gonzo Opera), and sent to Gonzo Opera, 7038 Camino Rojo, Albuquerque NM 87507. Be part of the future of opera!