Photo of Scott Bourne Courtesy of Elise Toide

Bourne to Shelley Opera

Bourne to Shelley Opera: Tenor: Brian Thorsett. Photography by Michelle Pullman

On April 7th Bourne to Shelley opened at San Francisco’s Taube Atrium Theater. This contemporary opera was birthed out of ex-pro skateboarder Scott Bourne’s beautiful writings, a poem in particular which he scribbled on a cardboard box on a subway platform years prior, and his friendship with esteemed composer Shinji Eshima. We caught up with Scott to find out about this recent project and he also put us in touch with Mr. Eshima, so we decided to release a two part feature for this project. The first is an interview with Mr. Bourne and the second is with Mr. Eshima.

1) Bourne to Shelley opened last week in S.F. What was it like to hear your work live in the Opera house with all of the attendees present? Can you share a bit about the experience on opening night?

It was intense to say the least. This is a platform my writing has never taken and it’s a huge step for me. The event was sold out and in all honesty I had no idea how the audience was going to respond. The piece Shinji composed to is about as heavy as my poems get. Not to mention that the performers are some pretty well respected people in opera. Tenor Brian Thorsett, was flown out from Virginia to perform with San Francisco based Kevin Rivard (French Horn) and John Churchwell (Piano). The result was far beyond anything my words could achieve on their own.

2) I loved reading about Shinji Eshima’s process for the ballet Swimmer and your influence for the musical selection, how did you two come to meet?

I was on a return trip to San Francisco and had met with friend Peter Brandenhoff (the glue of many great things) who was dancing for the SF Ballet at the time. We had gone to a bar close to the opera house where we ran into mutual friend Sandra Jennings. She was on a first date with Mr. Eshima. (later he would marry her) We were introduced, a conversation ensued and a friendship began to form. Only a few nights later Peter and I bumped into Shinji and Sandra again at a production of The Overcoat done by A.C.T. Theatre. We had another great conversation and when I left SF I took his address with me. We have been writing letters back and forth for more than 10 years now, and have met in not only the States and France but been sailing through the Greek islands together where he actually wrote the music for RaKu.

3) How long have you and Shinji been working on this?

Shinji had been talking about composing to my poems for quite sometime, but I don’t think it was until sometime in early 2010 while visiting San Francisco, that I actually heard the piece that was just performed. So that is about 6 years ago, but often with any sort of artistic endeavor, its takes longer to get it out into the world than to create it!

4) Had you read Percy Shelley before you started this project?

Certainly…he is one of my all time favorite poets. To see my work along side of his is not only an honor but something impossible to fully comprehend!

5) How long will you be in San Francisco? I am curious since you haven’t been back for some time, what is the most interesting (whether bad or good) aspect of your time back?

I have already returned to France. As for San Francisco, well, she reminds me of that little punker girl with all those over-the-top ethos, I was once in love with and bumping into her years later, I am surprised to find she’s now a big, big banker.

Bourne to Shelley OperaBourne to Shelley Opera: French Horn: Kevin Rivard. Piano: John Churchwell. Tenor: Brian Thorsett. Photography by Michelle Pullman