How do you adapt a 7 hour play cycle into a 2.5 hour opera? Focus on one character’s story and cut the others down ruthlessly. Where the stage play follows five principal characters 6 principals the opera zeroes in on Prior Walter the dying prophet. The other five are there but primarily serve as support to Prior’s story.
Kusner’s play was subtitled A Gay Fantasia on National Themes. The opera minimizes the political themes and emphasizes the spiritual. Prior’s debate with the Angels is the centerpiece of the second act as Louis, Harper, Joe and Roy fall to the sides. Poor Belize is barely a cameo. I couldn’t say how the opera functions as a stand-alone work but I found it fascinating as a companion piece to the play.