Casterbridge was the brainchild of David Willinger. Upon reading Hardy's novel, Willinger immediately "heard the music in it." Hardy's dialogue is so beautifully crafted, rhythmic, and passionate, that it begged out to be fulfilled in singing. He found the story of such grandeur that it struck him as comparable to a more modern version of Shakespeare, and he loved the trajectory of Henchard, the central character. The rise and fall of a proud, insecure, difficult man is most compelling and mirrors the lives of so many "difficult" people around us, to whom, despite their cantankerousness, our hearts go out.

Willinger and Christopher Beste have been at work on it in fits and starts on the project for over twenty years. Once he had embarked on the libretto, he was introduced to Beste by a mutual friend. Beste's expertise in English traditional music made him a perfect fit. The process has been fraught with obstacles and gaps, most notably because at a certain point Beste moved away from Princeton, New Jersey – which was already quite a trot from New York City – to Afton Tennessee. But despite the great distance between them and multiple other projects they've worked on in the interim, Willinger and Beste have persevered to see this musical through to fruition. Both consider it a crowning achievement.