The Who’s Pete Townshend Writes New Rock Opera

Pete Townshend is turning his 2019 novel The Age of Anxiety into a rock opera, featuring a soundtrack of new original songs. The Who guitarist is also working on a documentary chronicling the entire production, which he started 16 years ago.

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“I am still developing the score and recording the music,” said Townshend, 78. “I am also working on a documentary about the project, from its inception in 2007 until today. I’m probably two years off completing it, at which time I hope to perform it with a full opera and a cast of guest singers.”

The Age of Anxiety explores societal fears about the future linked to terrorism, the impact of social media on mental health, and the effects of global warming. “First conceived as an opera, The Age of Anxiety deals with mythic and operatic themes including a maze, divine madness, and long-lost children,” reads a descriptor of the novel. “Hallucinations and soundscapes haunt this novel, which on one level is an extended meditation on manic genius and the dark art of creativity.”

Speaking on the book, Townshend said: “Ten years ago I decided to create a magnum opus that would combine opera, art installation, and novel. Suddenly here I am with a completed novel ready to publish. I am an avid reader and have really enjoyed writing it. I am also happy to say the majority of the music is composed, and ready to be polished up for release and performance.”

Townshend previously composed The Who’s 1969 album Tommy, which later became a film in 1975 and a Broadway musical in 1992. He also came up with the concept behind Quadrophenia, the band’s 1973 album, which follows the story of a young British mod named Jimmy. The album also had a film adaptation in 1979.

Earlier on, Townshend wrote a smaller “opera” for The Who, “A Quick One, While He’s Away,” a nine-plus minute song written in six movements that appeared on the band’s 1966 album A Quick One

[RELATED: The Story Rocky Relationship of The Who’s Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend]

In addition to his next opera, Townshend is also involved Who bandmate Roger Daltrey‘s forthcoming project, a biopic about Keith Moon.

Daltrey and Townshend will executive produce the film, which details the life of the late Who drummer, who died in 1978 at age 32 from an accidental drug overdose. “I’ve written a film script about his life because I have never met anyone in my life similar to Keith,” said Daltrey. “He was the funniest man I ever met. But he couldn’t control his talent.”

Daltrey added, “If you were trying to make a film and you asked him, ‘Could you do that again?’, he’d go, ‘No.’ He couldn’t do it again. Everything was polar opposites with him. Yes, he was incredibly flawed, he had incredible tragedy in his life, but everybody who knew him, who met him, loved him.”

Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

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