On July 9, 2022, Des Moines Metro Opera will add a new American work to the operatic canon with its world premiere of A Thousand Acres with music by Kristin Kuster and libretto by Mark Campbell.
Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Jane Smiley, A Thousand Acres is a modern retelling of Shakespeare's King Lear set on a farm in Iowa in the late 1970s told from the point of view of Ginny, the oldest of three daughters. Larry Cook, a prominent farmer, announces at a family gathering that he has decided to divide his thousand acres between his three daughters. While Ginny and Rose acquiesce to their father's wishes, Caroline demurs and enrages her father. Ginny tries to hold the family together but Rose, recovering from cancer treatment and fearful for the fate of her two daughters, is unrepentant in her criticism both of Caroline's selfishness and Larry's bullying nature. As Larry descends into rage and dementia, all the buried family secrets are finally laid bare.
A Thousand Acres is a family drama writ large. It is a story with great scope and broad appeal with distinctive female characters that explores ideas of family conflict, patriarchy, legacy and the strength and fragility of the ties that bind us together, all told through the eyes of its central female protagonist.