But for a few days last week, the Madison Opera thrust itself onto the national stage with the premiere of "Shining Brow," an opera by the rising young composer Daron Aric Hagen about a particularly tempestuous period in Wright's life. The plucky little company, with a normal budget of $350,000 for its two productions a year, originated the idea and raised the $500,000 needed to carry the commission through in high style. The last of the work's three performances at the Madison Civic Center took place on Sunday afternoon.
Wright, who was born in Richland Center, Wis., built his home in nearby Spring Green, in the lovely rolling hills of southwestern Wisconsin, in 1911. He integrated the structure into a hillside and called it Taliesin, "Shining Brow" in Welsh, the language of his forebears. In 1914, while Wright was in Chicago, his cook ran amok, murdering Wright's mistress of a decade, Mamah Cheney, and her two children, and setting Taliesin ablaze; four other people died in the fire.
“Shining Brow” explores Wright’s relationships with his wife, Catherine (Kara Cornell); his mistress Mamah Cheney (Lara Lynn Cottrill); Mamah’s husband and Wright’s client, Edwin Cheney (Dimitrie Lazich); and his mentor, Louis Sullivan (James Flora). The role of Frank Lloyd Wright is sung by Kevin Kees.