New Opera “When Adonis Calls” Opens this Weekend

When Adonis Calls, a new opera based on poems by Asheville native Gavin Geoffrey Dillard will have its world premiere this weekend at the historic Asheville Masonic Temple.

When most of us think of opera, old standards such as Carmen or La Traviata come to mind, but a brand new opera will make its world premiere this weekend, staged by Asheville Lyric Opera.

When Adonis Calls will be performed at the historic Asheville Masonic Temple downtown on May 11, 12 and 13.

The opera is based on the poetry of Asheville’s third-generation native Gavin Geoffrey Dillard, so the lyrics will be in English, not French or Italian. And although this opera includes no soprano dying of consumption, mortality is one of its themes. Dillard said the opera was inspired by a poem he wrote about Adonis, past his prime and approaching the frailties of old age.   

“When Adonis Calls is the story of a successful but rather jaded poet with writer’s block who is artistically hit upon by a young, enthusiastic upstart poet who becomes his muse. Not long ago when I was living on Maui, I got a fan letter from a young poet in New York, and I responded with a poem. He in kind responded to me with a poem, and we continued that conversation for about nine months,” Dillard said.

The resulting manuscript titled Nocturnal Omissions attracted the attention of a publisher. Dillard was to be featured at an upcoming writer’s conference in San Francisco, so he asked the poet from New York to fly out and meet him there for a reading. It was the first time they met, and resulted in the book’s conclusion. “Nocturnal Omissions was the impetus for a producer-director-choreographer at Dallas-Fort Worth operas to create a new story using the extent of my earlier and latter work.”

The poems were cut and pasted into a libretto by director and choreographer John de los Santos, with a musical score composed by Clint Borzoni. “Two male dancers create the emotional subtext as the poets banter back and forth of their loves, their animosities, their jealousies, and their creative furies. Two stars of the national opera stage, Trevor Martin and Joshua Jeremiah, will perform the modern, romantic and lyrical opera. It is sensuous, melodic, powerful and seductive, and is intimately accompanied by a string quartet and percussionist.”

Dillard has already won “best new work” laudits from Fort Worth Opera’s “Frontiers” and OPERA America. Dillard said while partial or concert versions of the piece were performed at both festivals, as well as at Musica Marin last spring, the ALO production will be the official world premiere. The 90-minute premiere will serve as a template for an upcoming production by the Thompson Street Opera in Chicago later this year.

Performances will be at the Asheville Masonic Temple on 80 Broadway at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, with a 3 p.m. matinee on Sunday. Ticket sales and auction items will benefit Western North Carolina AIDS Project (WINCAP).

By Mark-Ellis Bennett