MSUToday
Published: Feb. 1, 2011

College of Music Artist in Residence: Ricky Ian Gordon

Contact(s): Meghan Spork University Relations Student Writer cell: (248) 250-3743 meghan.spork@ur.msu.edu

Composer Ricky Ian Gordon believes "The Grapes of Wrath" chose him, not the other way around.

Gordon was approached by Minnesota Opera to compose an opera based on "The Grapes of Wrath" by John Steinbeck. At first, he felt a little unnerved by the magnitude of the project. But after reading the book during a trip to New York, Gordon said he had a destiny moment. He knew he could not turn away from this project.

Working with librettist Michael Korie, Gordon found a way to make the opera unique. The novel is formatted around the story of the Joad family and its exodus to California. And every other chapter is Steinbeck's take on an America that could allow that to happen. Gordon and Korie took Steinbeck's view and used it as the basis for the chorus in the opera.

"Unfortunately I think ‘The Grapes of Wrath' is as cogent and current as it ever was," Gordon said.

He added that there are still many Americans who are unemployed and disenfranchised, facing problems such as foreclosure.

These hardships are comparable to those faced during the Great Depression and during the Dust Bowl era, Gordon said.

During Gordon's visit to MSU, he taught a master class in the College of Music, focusing on excerpts from the "The Grapes of Wrath" opera. He also worked with composing classes and music theater students during his residency.

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Composer Ricky Ian Gordon talks about his residency at MSU, his operatic approach to "The Grapes of Wrath" and how John Steinbeck's novel is still current today.

Composer Ricky Ian Gordon talks about his residency at MSU, his operatic approach to "The Grapes of Wrath" and how John Steinbeck's novel is still current today.

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