The hills of Olympus have never been more than a few strums of the lyre away from the stages of the theater, but lately the mist of mythology has seemed particularly thick.

The Met just launched its lauded premiere of Matthew Aucoin and Sarah Ruhl’s “Eurydice.” The Kennedy Center just wrapped a month-long run of Anaïs Mitchell’s mythical musical mash-up “Hadestown.” And Washington Concert Opera is preparing its next production, an April performance of the 1859 Berlioz adaptation of Gluck’s “Orphee.”

It could be that in uncertain times, myths give us something sturdy to lean on, a narrative handrail to grip as we stumble through the centuries.

There’s something about the irrational grudges, passions and furies of the gods and the grim fates thus faced by scores of multisyllabic heroes and heroines that help make the brutal absurdity of everyday life feel reassuringly traditional. I get that.

But myths, vaporous as they are, also have a way of setting things in stone, casting certain perspectives in heroic poses while relegating others to the stony silence of the underworld, or sacrificed for the advancement of a greater cause.

Such was the woeful case of a certain Princess Iphigenia, the beautiful daughter of King Agamemnon and Queen Clytemnestra. Iphigenia was sent to her death to make amends for the slaying of a stag dear to the heart of Artemis, who, in a proverbial huff, halted the winds and stalled the onset of the Trojan War.

In some tellings, Iphigenia becomes a deer at the moment of her sacrifice; in others, she doesn’t. But common to both tellings, as well as the dozens of operas, oratorios, plays and films since derived from the myth of Iphigenia, is that she’s not the one who gets to tell the story.

“. . . (Iphigenia),” a new opera from composer/performer Esperanza Spalding and jazz luminary Wayne Shorter, seeks to solve this problem by not just filling imaginative gaps in the story, but by reimagining what makes a myth in the first place.

After a premiere run in Boston, “. . . (Iphigenia)” opens at the Kennedy Center for two performances starting Dec. 10.

Spalding, 37, is a singer, bassist, composer and four-time Grammy winner, most recently for her 2019 album “12 Little Spells.”

Shorter, 88, is an 11-time Grammy winner, his most recent in 2018 for “Emanon” — a three-disc release of live and recorded material featuring the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, paired with a graphic novel by Shorter, writer Monica Sly and artist Randy DuBurke. Health issues have forced Shorter to retire from performing with the quartet he formed in 2000 with pianist Danilo Perez, bassist John Patitucci and drummer Brian Blade, but he remains inventive and productive as a composer.

In 2013, Spalding, a longtime admirer of Shorter and his music, had set her own words to one of her favorite pieces of his, “Endangered Species.” (In 2018, she performed it when Shorter claimed his Kennedy Center Honors.) This collaboration led to “Gaia,” a spellbinding symphonic poem featuring Spalding’s vocals and libretto, premiered by the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 2013.

An instant affinity was felt, and talks about what would become “. . . (Iphigenia)” started shortly afterward. The nearly eight-year process would find the opera shifting shapes and taking multiple forms and visions, with Spalding even forming her own production company, Real Magic, with Jeff Tang to shepherd it into reality, along with producers Cath Brittan and Mara Isaacs.

At first, Spalding hunted for other librettists on Shorter’s behalf, brainstorming poets and writers she thought could match the music. It never occurred to her to volunteer.

Shorter had different designs.

“What about you? What about you?” Spalding remembers him repeatedly asking. She even recalls getting pulled aside by his wife, Carolina Dos Santos. (“You know, he really wants you to do this.”)

Unable to say no, Spalding said yes. Shorter had initially intrigued her with promising teases about the myth of Iphigenia — its young heroine, its blur of the comic and tragic, its poetic depths. Then Spalding went and read it for herself.

“I didn’t see that character!” she says. “I saw a thinly veiled propaganda for militarism and this idea that the innocence within us should be sacrificed for this larger theme.”

Some time spent with Goethe’s “Iphigenia in Tauris” granted Spalding a fleeting glimpse of the Iphigenia that had Shorter so inspired, but it wasn’t until she immersed herself in Shorter’s own musical portrait of the heroine that her story started to become clear.

Shorter had written most of the piano sketches for the opera before Spalding had even put pen to page. She describes the music she heard as “a delicious barrage,” “rich and visual,” “dense in the best way.”

“That’s how his symphonic writing is,” she says. “It’s like a language. You feel characters, you feel action, you feel relationships.”

“When she was writing the libretto, I didn’t know what she was writing,” says Shorter by phone from California. “And when I was working on the music, she couldn’t hear what I was working on. And we just said, let’s see what happens.”

Coming from Shorter, this is more instructive than improvisational.

“Most people like to see if something works,” he says. “I don’t like that word: works. But I do like ‘Let’s see what happens.’ If it ‘works,’ it’s going to be too mechanical.”

As a kid in Newark, Shorter spent a lot of time listening to radio programs of classical composers, watching foreign films with subtitles and holing up in the library to read about Beethoven and Chopin. When he started studying clarinet at age 15, he’d listen to orchestras on record and try to jump in with his own part.

He also built an early love of opera, listening to performances by Maria Callas and Renata Tebaldi. But when composing “. . . (Iphigenia),” he found himself keeping conscious distance.

“You get visionary, you see faces, you see movement and you try to match that when you write stuff down,” he says. “And you want to stay away from what’s been done. You want to stay away from ‘The Rake’s Progress,’ ‘Aida’; stay away from it.”

Instead, he leaves the news on. It doesn’t bother him; he uses it as a source of counterpoint: “When I see something on the news, I get the feeling of writing the music to go against what they’re trying to sell.”

Spalding, too, found herself leaving ample room between her process and the lineage of Iphigenia’s past.

“I wanted to actually play with the spectacle of opera itself,” she says, “and the magnetism of the spectacle, and how easy it is to get wrapped up in the grandness of the medium and not notice what story is being delivered through the medium of this intoxicating form. You’re reading the arguments that the characters are making for and against sacrificing [Iphigenia], and the beauty of their reasoning and rationale kind of blinds you to what’s actually at the essence of the question.”

The structural concerns at the core of Spalding’s libretto and Shorter’s music carry over into the set design, helmed by architect Frank Gehry, whose full set will have its own premiere at the Kennedy Center after some technical difficulties in Boston. Gehry, one of the world’s most celebrated architects at 92, has designed for operas in the past. In 2012, he created a gorgeous cloudscape of crumpled paper for the L.A. Philharmonic’s production of “Don Giovanni” at Walt Disney Concert Hall, one of several concert halls he’s designed.

“I like the ephemeral quality of it,” he says of set designing. “You don’t have to worry about fixing the leaks and stuff.”

He’s also worked closely with performing artists in the past. In 1983, for the opening of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, he created a “constructivist” set for “Available Light,” a collaboration between choreographer Lucinda Childs and composer John Adams.

But “. . . (Iphigenia)” was a different story.

Gehry didn’t know Shorter’s music well. The two met through Herbie Hancock, and Gehry fell immediately in love upon overhearing Shorter answer a guitarist asking what they’d be rehearsing. “He said, ‘You can’t rehearse what you ain’t invented.’ ”

Last year, Gehry’s famed 22nd Street house in Santa Monica, Calif., turned into an incubator for “. . . (Iphigenia),” with Shorter, Spalding, pianist Danilo Perez and others moving in to hash out ideas.

“It was jazz all along,” he says. “And I’m open. I wanted to go along for the ride and I did. And it was scary for me at times!”

Despite the improvisatory spirit that seems to have guided the long process of the opera’s composition, Spalding’s vision for the finished product feels concentrated and deliberate. Growing up with a mother who had the Bible memorized and spent hours helping her kids deconstruct what they’d learned at Sunday school informed Spalding’s relationship to storytelling and mythmaking.

“We live in a myth, we live in the United States,” she says. “The premise of its founding, it’s a myth. The premise of our right to occupy Indigenous lands is a myth that we retell ourselves every day. Myth doesn’t feel like a thing over there in a book. It’s an archetypal play that’s ongoing.”

And to Shorter, myth is a way of defying time, surviving the ages, a melody that carries across the ages.

“Euripides seemed like he was sending a message to anyone else who ever wrote about Iphigenia — he was sending a message about freedom,” he says. “When those people wrote those myths, they didn’t want them to die. It’s up to us to say that nothing really ends.”

“. . . (Iphigenia)” runs Dec. 10 and 11 at the Kennedy Center. kennedy-center.org.