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"It's a Wonderful Life" Gets Its Operatic Wings

After Houston premiere last year, IU-commissioned opera version of classic movie gets its first college production in Bloomington

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- You've seen the movie -- now "It's a Wonderful Life" is an opera, and premiering its first college production at Indiana University in Bloomington.

The Jacobs School of Music joined the Houston and San Francisco Operas in commissioning the adaptation from American composer Jake Heggie, whose prior works include opera versions of "Dead Man Walking" and "Moby Dick."  It premiered in Houston last year, but Heggie made some tweaks after seeing that production, and has made further tweaks during rehearsals in Bloomington.

Some scenes have been changed or cut from the movie to make the production flow better for a live audience. Mr. Gower the druggist is no longer included, and Clarence the guardian angel is now Clara - it worked better musically to have a soprano and tenor instead of two male voices. The change isn't unprecedented -- Cloris Leachman played Clara in a gender-flipped made-for-TV version of the story starring Marlo Thomas in the George Bailey role.

IU will give four performances of the opera this weekend and next.

Hear Jake Heggie's opera version of the bank run on the Bailey Brothers Building and Loan here.

Henry Travers and Jimmy Stewart in "It's a Wonderful Life" (Photo: John Springer Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

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