‘Everest’ makes a chilling – and oddly down-to-earth – opera
If you’ve never heard the word “y’all” sung in an opera, or seen an opera starring performers wearing insulated jackets and oxygen masks, you haven’t seen “Everest.”
I caught the Sunday matinee of the one-act opera, which chronicles the 1996 disaster on Mount Everest that claimed eight lives, at the Long Center for the Performing Arts.
The show focuses on three men – Rob Hall (Andrew Bidlack), the guide who led the expedition; Doug Hansen (Craig Verm), one of the climbers who died there; and Beck Weathers, the Houston man who survived the catastrophe. It premiered in Dallas in 2015, features a score by Joby Talbot and libretto (sung in English) written by Gene Scheer.
I love opera, but in a down-to-earth way. I can’t get enough of the pageantry of it, the intricacies of the music and the dramatic story lines. “Everest” – with its love story, doomed and flawed characters, and unique costumes – fills all those pockets in an oddly perfect way.
You might remember the story from Jon Krakauer’s book, “Into Thin Air.” A team of climbers led by Rob Hall aims to summit Mount Everest. Weathers, the Texan who had paid $65,000 to make the trip, suffers vision issues and is left to wait on the side of the trail while Hall and Hansen go on. But Hansen falls ill, and Hall is left to try to save him.
In the operatic version, we get a main character with a Texas accent (“mah” instead of “my”) who hallucinates that he’s at a family barbecue, and dreams he’s seeing his daughter. We get ghosts of people who have died trying to summit the peak. And we get the back story of a man who has suffered profound depression.
The opera premiered in Dallas in 2015, and has since been shown in Chicago and Calgary, among other places.
It’s different, it’s short, and it’ll leave you shivering, but not from the cold.