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The Too Much Coffee Man Opera

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When one mentally totes up a list of comics characters who could be turned into an opera, Shannon Wheeler’s Too Much Coffee Man probably isn’t one of the first one begging for an aria. But that is exactly what is happening in Portland, OR later this month, as The Too Much Coffee Man Opera has a four-run performance later this month at the Portland Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets are ON SALE NOW! Shannon writes to tell us:

In what’s believed to be the first opera inspired by a comic book, the Too Much Coffee Man Opera – presented by the Portland Center for the Performing Arts – jumps to the stage September 22-30, 2006 at Brunish Hall in Portland. The contemporary opera – based on Too Much Coffee Man, a syndicated comic strip featured in books and alternative weeklies nationwide – blends percolated humor with traditional opera.

Too Much Coffee Man creator Shannon Wheeler has co-written the opera with Damian Willcox. In their one-act, the eponymous Too Much Coffee Man, a caffeine-addled everyman is in love with his barista. He vies for her love with his friend, the cynical opportunist Espresso Guy. The characters must resolve the age-old dilemma: Can coffee and relationships co-exist? And do the troubles of three little people amount to more than a hill of (coffee) beans in this crazy world?


As this chamber opera opens, Too Much Coffee Man discovers that he is in the mood not only for coffee, but for love. A spell is cast as the beautiful but bitter Barista sings the poignant aria “I Hate This Job.â€? This is the moment he plans to confess his love. But his friend, Espresso Guy beats him to the counter. In the duet “You’re Going to Have to Pay,â€? the Barista spurns Espresso Guy. Too Much Coffee Man is ecstatic: the girl will be his! The Barista, however, has other plans – plans that have nothing to do with either of them. She wants to be a Super Hero.

Baritone Stacey Murdock performs as Too Much Coffee Man, tenor Matt Dolphin plays Espresso Guy and mezzo-soprano Jasmine Presson performs as Barista. The musical score, written by Emmy Award winner Daniel Steven Crafts, is written for clarinet, bass and piano. The opera is directed by Devon Allen with Our Shoes are Ready/The Performance Lab and co-produced by Randy Rollison with Ajax Arts in association with the Portland Center for the Performing Arts.

Other artists working on the project include Carolyn Holzman, choreographer; Joseph Prather, music director; Clair Callaway, stage manager, Sandra Zodnik, costumer; Paul McCullough, lighting design; Bethany Foran, set design (with Wheeler).

Sponsors include the Stumptown Coffee, Dark Horse Comics and Missing Link Toys.


Wheeler’s co-librettist Wilcox is also a cartooner, having created the comic “dorkboy.â€?

With comics now invading the world of opera, what plateaus remain to be conquered? While we can’t make it out for the gala premiere, (and our opera gloves are at the cleaner) we welcome for reports from attendees.

  1. Given that it’s only a four show long run, I asked Shannon in San-Diego what he thought the chances might be of having a pro audio recording produced for later distribution for all the fans who can’t make it to Portland. He was hesitant and unsure. Personally, I’m still very interested and would definatly purchase a copy, as I’m sure many others would too =)

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