Short-form streaming opera isn’t the novelty that contemporary creatives want us to suppose it is, but there’s no denying it has burgeoned since the world went into pandemic lockdown last year. A seldom-acknowledged trouble with the bite-size wonders we’ve been seeing is that they don’t accrue the oomph to leave a lasting impression. Well, Desert In has a solution for that! Call it the Darrah variant—Darrah as in James Darrah, the artistic director of Long Beach Opera, in whose perfervid imagination opera and the movies swirl like coffee and Irish whiskey, once blended never to separate.
Forged in the sort of Writers Room crucible that gave rise to The Sopranos, The Simpsons, and Six Feet Under, Darrah’s latest weaves its spell over eight 10-to-20-minute episodes. Though each is credited to its own glitteringly credentialed librettist-composer team, the rules of the game came down from Darrah along with the Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Ellen Reid and the lead writer Christopher Oscar Peña. Trending names in the mix (among the composers, Vijay Iyer and Nico Muhly) have had to check their egos at the door.