Robin Hood

When the law of the land is corrupt, what’s an honest citizen to do? In the absence of the King, the Sheriff has seized the country’s assets for himself and his cronies. Robin Hood is the unlikely leader of a band of ordinary folks doing their best to survive in the forest until the return of the King. Ultimately a sensitive soul, Robin struggles with the role that has been thrust upon him. Can he be a leader without being a fighter? Will he ever gain the respect of Marion, his second-in-command?  And when the King does return, will Robin and his friends be seen as heroes or outlaws? Through a series of adventures—triumphant, comic, romantic, dangerous—Robin learns to follow the voice of his heart (which is personified by a red-breasted bird named Scarlet). With music by Ben Moore, this opera premiered as part of the 2017 Glimmerglass Festival and will have a new production by Seattle Opera/Seattle Public Theater in 2018.


The Secret Gardener

New English lyrics for a site-specific production of Mozart's La finta giardiniera, directed by Eric Einhorn. Commissioned and produced by Onsite Opera (New York, NY) and The Atlanta Opera for performances at the West Side Community Garden (New York City) and Atlanta Botanical Gardens. "Rourke’s version is a total romp — pure springtime entertainment" (ArtsATL). "Kelley Rourke’s clever English translation...boiled the work down to its essence" (Wall Street Journal).


Libretto for a multimedia work of music-theater inspired by the memoirs of Maurice Temerlin, a psychotherapist who adopted a chimpanzee daughter. Music by John Glover. For baritone, chamber ensemble and film. Work-in-progress performed in 2010 by Nautilus Music-Theatre (St. Paul, MN) and American Opera Projects (New York, NY); world premiere in fall 2014 with Milwaukee Opera Theater. "It’s a resonant story, with a (not surprisingly) tragic end, and Lucy...tells it beautifully in ways that keep the big questions—and poignant emotions—front and center" (MilwaukeeMag). The work had its second production at DC's Urban Arias in April 2017:"Lucy the chimpanzee's life makes for compelling art" (Washington Post). A recording is available via New Focus Records. "That such an unusual story should end up being so moving is a compliment to everyone involved" (Textura).


Capture (working title)

As trains surged westward across the newly-completed Transcontinental Railroad, stories of opportunity, progress and conquest spread quickly through the more settled, populous East. If anyone could capture the unfolding drama with an objective eye, it was the pioneering photographer Eadweard Muybridge, a man of extraordinary skill, inventiveness and confidence. A few years earlier, his large-scale photographs of Yosemite helped shape a romantic idea of “the West” in the minds of many. Now, the U.S. Army enlisted him to document what would turn out to be one of their costliest wars against the original occupants of the western frontier. Muybridge struggles to offer the “true” story of the Modoc war; as he does, his voice competes with the voices of U.S. generals, members of the Modoc tribe, journalists, prospectors, later photographers and the land itself. Written with composer John Glover for the Del Sol Quartet and Jesse Blumberg.



A modern, hour-long adaptation of Rossini's beloved fairy tale, adapted for six soloists and no chorus. Commissioned and produced by The Atlanta Opera.


Lost Luggage

A fresh take on Rossini's L'occasione fa il ladro, a story about opportunity, identity, and baggage of every kind. Commissed and produced by The Glimmerglass Festival (2016)


Wilde Tales

A one-hour opera based on characters and events from Oscar Wilde's fairy tales, commissioned by The Glimmerglass Festival for the 2016 season. "'Wilde Tales,' by composer Laura Karpman and librettist Kelley Rourke, a charming mashup of Oscar Wilde’s stories 'The Happy Prince' and 'The Remarkable Rocket,' was sophisticated yet tailored to the talents of its performers." (Wall Street Journal)


The Magic Flute (4)

A new English version of Mozart's enlightenment tale, inspired by the magical qualities of an unspoiled natural landscape. Directed by Madeline Sayet for the 2015 Glimmerglass Festival. "This is Ms. Rourke’s fourth English translation of “The Magic Flute,” and while I can’t speak for the others, it is a winner: colloquial and entertaining in spoken passages, and remarkably well wedded to the music and versification in arias." (The New York Times) Revived by Southern Methodist University in fall 2016.


“Sing to me…” From the start, Homer’s epic tale of a hero’s journey home has been wedded to the singing voice. In this operatic rendition, stories of Odysseus and his faithful wife, Penelope, are given new life with rollicking sailor songs, dramatic storms, a mesmerizing Siren melody, a riveting tango, a poignant love duet, and more. This one-hour opera  with music by Ben Moore was commissioned and premiered by The Glimmerglass Festival (2015), with new productions planned for The Metropolitan Museum of Art (November 2017) and Minnesota Opera (February 2018), and a Glimmerglass revival in summer 2018.Watch the trailer.


The Barber of Seville

A contemporary English rendering of Rossini's comedy for director Michael Shell's 2015 production for Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, which takes its inspiration from the films of Pedro Almodóvar. "A new English translation by Kelly Rourke, combined with some inspired stage direction by Michael Shell and the spirited conducting of the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra by Ryan McAdams, makes this Barber a fresh, razor-sharp interpretation...Rourke’s new translation was commissioned by OTSL for its 40th anniversary, and the result is smart, savvy, silly and successful." (Ladue News) A revised version, for Sam Brown's new production at Welsh National Opera, earned high marks from the Birmingham Mail: "I’ve genuinely never heard an audience laughing so much in an opera buffa. Kelley Rourke’s brisk and irreverent new English translation had a lot to do with that."


The Girl of the Golden West

Adaptation of Puccini's opera for a new Richard Jones production at English National Opera (2014). "How brilliantly, too, Kelley Rourke’s English translation brings the Wild West to life. It is almost like having John Wayne and Gary Cooper on stage." (Financial Times) Future performances: Apotheosis Opera (New York, NY), summer 2016.


Ariadne in Naxos

A bilingual, 21st-century take on Richard Strauss and Hugo von Hofmannsthal's mash-up of "high" and "low" art, set in upstate New York. Commissioned by the Glimmerglass Festival (2014), with a revival by Austin Opera set for 2018. "Kelley Rourke’s contemporary English translation for the Prologue and comic scenes, with references to things such as production standards on the Jersey Shore, adds to the high spirits." (Financial Times) 


The Magic Flute (3)

A fresh English libretto for Washington National Opera's light-hearted 2014 production, which takes place in a fanciful world designed by acclaimed artist Jun Kaneko and directed by Harry Silverstein. "They were aided by an English translation of the libretto by the company’s dramaturge, Kelley Rourke, that often had the audience laughing at actual jokes rather than the hoary gag lines so common in opera 'updatings.'" (The Washington Post)

The Magic Flute (2)

New English lyrics for Boston Lyric Opera's 2013 production, which reimagines Mozart's classic quest against the context of a Mayan-inspired cosmology. Adapted in collaboration with John Conklin and Leon Major. "Mozart’s opera sounds incredibly fresh in this ingenious reimagining, delivering its potent mix of jovial humor and nuggets of wisdom with a renewed vitality, and a surprising up-to-date relevance." (MIT's The Tech)

King for a Day

A modern English version of the opera by Giuseppe Verdi for the 2013 Glimmerglass Festival production, directed by Christian Rath. "Ms. Rourke’s clever, quirky libretto, easy to follow and hard to resist, tidies up some of the original opera’s messy bits." (The New York Times)


Natural Systems

Libretto for a dramatic song cycle inspired by the life and work of Carl Linnaeus, the Swedish botanist, physician and zoologist. "The way to wisdom is to know the things themselves." Music by John Glover. World premiere: Carnegie Hall, May 26, 2013, with baritone Evan Hughes and the New York Youth Symphony. Chamber version premiere: November 2014, San Francisco Conservatory's BluePrint Series, with baritone Daniel Cilli and conductor Nicole Paiement.


Guns n' Rosenkavalier

New English lyrics for songs by Schumann, Schubert, Strauss and other dead composers, performed alongside and in combination with songs by Kate Bush, Pat Benatar, Gnarls Barkley and more. Arrangements by John Glover and Andrew Wilkowske. World premiere: Milwaukee Opera Theatre, March 22, 2013, with Andrew Wilkowske on vocals and guitar, Ruben Piirainen on keyboards, and Genghis Barbie on horns. Revived in summer 2013 at The Glimmerglass Festival, 2014 at Mill City Opera, and 2015 at New York City's Rockwood Music Hall.



A new English & Italian version of the opera by Ruggero Leoncavallo, set in modern-day Little Italy, directed by Joe Banno. Commissioned and produced by The In Series in 2010.


The Elixir of Love                                                                                                                                       

A new English version of the opera by Gaetano Donizetti, set in 1950s America and directed by Sir Jonathan Miller. Produced by English National Opera in January 2010, with revivals in 2011 (English National Opera), 2014 (Opera Theatre of Saint Louis) and 2016 (Scottish Opera). "Much of the credit...should go to Kelley Rourke's crackingly witty translation. For sure, it takes as many liberties as it fires off rhyming couplets but it does so with irresistible silliness." (The Independent)


Orpheus in the Underworld                                                                                                                    

New English version of the operetta by Jacques Offenbach, commissioned for Glimmerglass Opera’s 2007 season. Revived by The In Series (Washington, DC), Southern Methodist University and Plymouth State University.


The Magic Flute (1)                                                                                                                                            

Lyrics for a contemporary English version of Mozart’s opera, with book and dialogue by Allyson Currin and direction by Joe Banno. Commissioned and produced by The In Series in 2005; revived in 2006.               


Abduction from the Seraglio                                                                                                                

Lyrics and dialogue for a new English version of the opera by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, directed by Joe Banno. Commissioned and produced by The In Series in 2004.



Opera America, the quarterly magazine of the national service organization for opera | Editor

Program Book, The Glimmerglass Festival | Editor

The Perspectives Series for Singers, collections of essays on topics related to the business of singing | Editor

The New Grove Dictionary of American Music | Contributor

Vocal Arts DC | Program Annotator

Salzburg Seminar | Rapporteur



Translation/adaptation of more than 70 opera libretti, transmitted live at companies including the Metropolitan Opera, New York City Opera, Washington National Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, The Glimmerglass Festival, Boston Lyric Opera, Opera Philadelphia, The Miller Theater, Chicago Opera Theater, Portland Opera, Florida Grand Opera, Opera Omaha, Virginia Opera, Arizona Opera, Maryland Opera Studio, Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Tri-Cities Opera, Opera Santa Barbara and Hawaii Opera Theatre. Click here for complete list of titles.