The Fire Tower (2023)

An opera in one act for soprano, mezzo-soprano, and piano. 24 mins.

Black & white photograph of a fire tower on a mountain summit

Two intrepid women develop a bond of friendship during a trek deep into the wilderness. June, a first-time fire lookout, is radically reinventing herself following the unexpected death of her life partner. Ray is an experienced mule packer with a life-long love for the land, who struggles with hopelessness in the face of ecological crises.

Accompanied by pack mules, Ray guides June to her seasonal post at a rustic fire tower on a mountain summit in a non-motorized wilderness. During their journey the women are awed by vast landscapes, find moments of levity, and share their experiences with grief.

Set against a backdrop of climate crisis in the American West, The Fire Tower is an intimate portrait of two people in a pivotal moment searching for purpose.

Music & libretto by Nell Shaw Cohen.

Perusal Score

Available for workshop productions. Perusal score provided on request. Please direct inquiries to Nell Shaw Cohen at

Upcoming Performances

Friday, November 17 & Sunday, November 19, 2023
UTSA Lyric Theatre – The Fire Tower
The University of Texas at San Antonio, San Antonio, TX
UTSA Lyric Theatre presents a fully staged workshop production of The Fire Tower on an evening of short one-act operas titled Epigrams.
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Turn and Burn (2020)

Opera in one act for 2 sopranos, mezzo-soprano, baritone, and bass-baritone, with electric and acoustic guitars, bass guitar, drum set, 2 violins, viola, cello, and double bass. 71 mins.

Libretto by Megan Cohen. Commissioned by Houston Grand Opera for HGOco’s “Song of Houston” initiative. Recipient of OPERA America Commissioning Grant for Female Composers.

Barrel racer in black and white

In Turn and Burn, small-town barrel racing champion Shayla Taylor and ambitious executive Jamie Hernandez aim for a big win at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. When an accident threatens Shayla’s career-defining race, the women discover each other’s strength in adversity. Set in a colorful world of bucking broncs and carnival rides, composer Nell Shaw Cohen and librettist Megan Cohen’s original story informed by interviews with rodeo athletes offers a feminist perspective on contemporary rodeo culture.

Performance History

Workshop at Houston Grand Opera, Houston, TX, Geoffrey Loff, Conductor; 12/09/19.

World Premiere production originally scheduled for February 2021, postponed (due to COVID-19) to 2023 .

The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus (in development)

Opera in one act for soprano, mezzo-soprano, baritone, child soprano, SSA choir, and chamber ensemble.

The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus book cover

A family holiday opera with a libretto by Edward Einhorn adapted from The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus by L. Frank Baum: a nontraditional Christmas fairy tale set in the magical world of “The Wizard of Oz.”

Currently in development.

Recording from Untitled Theater Company No. 61’s workshop reading of excerpts from the opera in piano-vocal score:

Continue reading “The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus (in development)”