Jennifer Higdon is one of the most performed composers in the US, and Cold Mountainis the Pulitzer Prize-winner’s first operatic sojourn. The composition got off to a rocky start when the original commission from San Francisco Opera failed to eventuate. Happily, Santa Fe Opera, Opera Philadelphia and Minnesota Opera rescued the commission of this brilliant new work, with the premiere staged last year in 2015 in Santa Fe. After sell-out performances, the work has since won the 2016 International Opera Award for best world premiere.

The libretto by Gene Scheer is adapted from the best-selling novel of the same name by Charles Frazier, which tells the story of Civil War deserter W.P. Inman and his journey to find his beloved Ada, a once well-off but now desperate woman who learns to fend for herself with the help of Ruby, a mountain woman. The setting for the story had a special significance for Higdon, who grew up on a farm in East Tennessee, only 60 miles from the real Cold Mountain in North Carolina.

Musically, Higdon’s score is fresh and cast in her own personal brand of Neo-Romanticism, while drawing on numerous hallmarks of classical and folk Americana. Throughout the two-act...