Thurso’s Landing

Take a sneak peek at several excerpts from Thurso’s Landing, a new American opera by Jessica A. Hunt on a libretto adapted from the work of Robinson Jeffers. For program notes, synopsis, and more, please visit:…

Thurso’s Landing is an opera in two acts based on Robinson Jeffers’ (1887-1962) lengthy narrative poem by the same title, first published in 1932. The opera is set in the summers of 1932 and 1933 in Bixby Canyon in California during the construction of Highway One and the Bixby Bridge. The Thurso family, which dwells in a failing farmhouse far back in this canyon, struggles to come to terms with the the intrusion of outsiders, the modernization of the California landscape, and specters of a troubled familial legacy, challenging their own ideas of loyalty, identity, love and morality. The adaptation of the libretto began in 2012; after nearly 6 years, the current working libretto draft was finalized in the summer of 2018. While a few dramatic “pillars” had previously been musically sketched and composed over the years, the bulk of the material in the opera was composed over the course of late 2018 and early 2019.

The performance excerpted in this video is in concert format; singers move about a bare stage; sets are suggested only by groupings of music stands. The opera also contains chorus material (eight low voices) that was not included in this performance; this additional material will hopefully be heard as part of a future workshop production.

Dramaturgically, this opera sits somewhere between the worlds of opera and musical theatre, seeking a rhetorical balance between elevated poetics and emotional immediacy. The opera’s musical vocabularies are informed by the free-yet-structured atonality of Berg’s Wozzeck; by the modernist middlebrow vocabularies of Menotti, Bernstein and Vernon Duke; and by the “Americana” sonorities of Gershwin and Copland in an attempt to explore the musical intersections of opera and musical theatre through the unique lens of neo-verismo American eclecticism.

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