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New York City Opera to Present New York Premiere of Iraq War Opera FALLUJAH


New York City Opera continues its 2016 - 17 season on November 17, 18, 19 and 20, 2016 with the New York premiere of Tobin Stokes and Heather Raffo's Fallujah, the first opera written about the Iraq War experience.

Based on the life and work of Iraq War veteran Christian Ellis, USMC Sergeant (ret.), Fallujah is a visceral work about the anguish of war, the struggle to live and cope with PTSD, and the search for hope and redemption. New York City Opera will bring Andreas Mitisek's critically acclaimed and powerful production from Long Beach Opera, where Fallujah had its world premiere in March 2016, to New York just a few days after the nation observes Veterans Day. The production incorporates visual art created by Iraq War veterans Jon Harguindeguy (USN) and Michael Hebert (USMC).

Fallujah is part of New York City Opera's Chamber Opera Series with performances taking place at The Duke on 42nd Street on November 17, 18, 19 at 7:30PM and on November 20 at 4:00PM.

Michael Capasso, General Director, New York City Opera said, "We are tremendously proud to continue City Opera's long tradition of bringing new and groundbreaking works to the New York public with our upcoming production of Fallujah, a work that is a testament to both opera's enduring ability to illuminate the most essential aspects of the human condition, and the art form's continued relevance in our modern world."

With a score by Canadian composer Tobin Stokes and a libretto by Iraqi-American playwright Heather Raffo, Fallujah excavates the human and social effects of the Iraq War. The opera tells the dual story of an American Marine, Philip, - inspired by Christian Ellis, and a young Iraqi boy, Wissam, whose lives are both changed irrevocably by the devastating Battle of Fallujah. It exposes the daily fight for survival, in which PTSD is a reality lived by all involved: marines, their mothers, their medics and the Iraqis they are both fighting and protecting.

"Their battle is not the infamous Battle of Fallujah, their battle is how to live with the cost of Fallujah," says librettist Raffo. When writing the music, Stokes asked Ellis to share the playlist he listened to while preparing for combat in Fallujah. "The challenge was to take music," says Tobin, "that had been used to obliterate emotion and use it to amplify emotions." Stokes combined the rock music on the playlist with the sounds and music of the Middle East that the Marines would have heard in Iraq to build the vocabulary of the score. Ellis is the opera's story consultant.

When philanthropist and filmmaker Charlie Annenberg Weingarten first met USMC Sergeant Christina Ellis on a retreat for veterans, he was deeply moved by the courage and soul Ellis displayed and the complex issues modern service members face at home and abroad. Annenberg encouraged Ellis to turn the horrors of war into a body of work that anyone who suffers could learn and be inspired from.

"Christian Ellis' story is representative of thousands of Marines from around the world returning from the horrors of war," explained Weingarten. "Fallujah paints a vivid picture of the harrowing realities Ellis and his comrades faced in Iraq. It tells of their experiences with emotional honesty, and with deep compassion and understanding for the opposing side."

In 2010-12, through the initiation of Charles Annenberg Weingarten, and the creativity of librettist Heather Raffo and composer Tobin Stokes, Fallujah, became the first opera composed about the Iraq war. It was originally commissioned and work shopped by City Opera Vancouver. The world premiere took place in March 2016 at Long Beach Opera, CA in a collaboration between Long Beach Opera, The Annenberg Foundation and its multi-media division,

The production was directed by Long Beach Opera's Artistic Director Andreas Mitisek with lighting design by Dan Weingarten and video design by Hana S. Kim. Iraq War veterans Jon Harguindeguy (USN) and Michael Hebert (USMC), who have used their art to heal, assisted with the design of Long Beach Opera's production. It is this production that New York City Opera is bringing to New York City for Fallujah's New York premiere.

The world premiere cast of Fallujah reunites for City Opera's production at The Duke on 42nd Street. Baritone LaMarcus Miller will reprise the role of the opera's protagonist Philip Houston. The Los Angeles Times wrote that "[Miller's]exacting portrayal, of a veteran battling inner demons as alarming as his Iraqi ones, does a brilliant job demonstrating how to make opera matter." The ensemble cast includes Suzan Hanson as Philip's mother Colleen; Todd Strange, Jason Switzer, Gregorio González and Arnold Livingston Geis as Philip's fellow soldiers; and Jonathan Lacayo, Zeffin Quinn Hollis, and Ani Maldjian as Iraqi civilians caught in the conflict. Belgian conductor Kristof Van Grysperre, who led the world premiere at Long Beach Opera, will conduct the New York City Opera Orchestra.

Fallujah is made possible in part through the generous support of, a direct charitable activity of The Annenberg Foundation. was created by filmmaker and philanthropist Charles Annenberg Weingarten to champion the selfless acts of others, inspire lifelong learning and help people fall in love with the world again. is home to more than 300 original films and a library of world-class photography from all over the globe. In addition, is home to Pearls of the Planet, the world's largest collection of live HD cameras focused on nature. With more than 100 cameras providing people an unprecedented view into the lives of amazing animals and beautiful places around the world, maintains a vibrant, online community. As an advertising-free philanthropic media organization, prides itself on purity and regularly provides grants to organizations focused on improving the human condition and the planet.

Complete cast and creative biographies can be found here:


New York City Opera in Co-Production with Long Beach Opera in collaboration with

Composer Tobin Stokes

Librettist Heather Raffo

Story Consultant Christian Ellis, USMC Sergeant (retired)

Conductor Kristof Van Grysperre

Director/Production Designer Andreas Mitisek

Video Designer Hana S. Kim

Lighting Designer Dan Weingarten

Art Designers/Consultants Veterans John Harguindeguy (USN)

and Michael Hebert (USMC)

New York City Opera Orchestra


Philip LaMarcus Miller

Taylor Todd Strange

Shatha Ani Maldjian

Colleen Suzan Hanson

Wissam Jonathan Lacayo

Kassim Zeffin Quinn Hollis

Corpsman Arnold Livingston Geis

Lalo Gregorio González

Rocks Jason Switzer

229 West 42nd Street, between 7th & 8th Avenues

Thursday, November 17, 7:30PM

Friday, November 18, 7:30PM

Saturday, November 19, 7:30PM

Sunday, November 20, 4:00PM

For tickets to FALLUJAH visit or The Duke on 42nd Street Box Office, 229 West 42nd Street, between 7th & 8th Avenues.

Tuesday - Friday, 4-7PM
Saturday, 12-6PM
Extended hours until performance time on show days

Sunday - Monday, 11AM-5PM
Tuesday - Saturday, 11AM-7PM
(646) 223-3010

Anytime at

Since its founding in 1943 by Mayor Fiorello La Guardia as "The People's Opera" New York City Opera has been a critical part of the city's cultural life. During its history, New York City Opera launched the careers of dozens of major artists and presented engaging productions of both mainstream and unusual operas alongside commissions and regional premieres. The result was a uniquely American Opera Company of international stature.

For more than seven decades, New York City Opera maintained a distinct identity, adhering to its unique mission: affordable ticket prices, a devotion to American works, English-language performances, the promotion of up-and-coming American singers, and seasons of accessible, vibrant and compelling productions intended to introduce new audiences to the art form. Stars who launched their careers at New York City Opera include Plácido Domingo, Catherine Malfitano, Sherrill Milnes, Samuel Ramey, Beverly Sills, Tatiana Troyanos, Carol Vaness, Shirley Verrett, among dozens of other great artists.

In 1999, New York City Opera founded VOX, Contemporary Opera Lab, an annual concert series that offered composers and librettists the opportunity to hear excerpts of their works performed by professional singers and musicians. For decades New York City Opera has been committed to introducing opera to the young, bringing the art form to new audiences with educational outreach performances in New York City's public schools.

Now, having returned to the stage, New York City Opera continues its legacy at a new, state-of-the-art home at Jazz at Lincoln Center's Rose Theater with revitalized outreach and education programs, and programming designed to welcome and inspire a new generation of City Opera audiences.

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