World Premiere of Iraq War Opera FALLUJAH Set to Open at Long Beach Opera Tonight
Long Beach Opera (LBO) announces the world premiere of Fallujah, the first opera composed about the Iraq War experience. This powerful work by Canadian composer Tobin Stokes and Iraqi-American librettist Heather Raffo is about the anguish of war, the residual scars of battle, and the search for hope and redemption. Like many veterans returning from combat, the opera's central character struggles to come to terms with the violence he has experienced and to reconnect the broken bonds to his family and friends. His uplifting journey towards reconciliation and recovery illuminates the human side of war. Stage Director and Production Designer Andreas Mitisek, who is also LBO's artistic and general director, is creating an immersive staging at the Army National Guard on 7th Street in Long Beach, using projections of art created by returned veterans to enhance the production. The seven-performance run begins tonight, March 12, 2016, and closes on March 20, 2016.
Librettist Heather Raffo says, "Opera serves the subject matter perfectly. The dramatic heights and intricate levels of conflict and detail you can get in this kind of music are suited to the dramatic heights of conflict in war... My dad's Iraqi, my mom's American. So it was of interest to me to make sure that the Iraqi characters were as fully fleshed as any of the characters in the play."
Of his music for Fallujah, Tobin Stokes comments, "I listened to the music of Iraq for research, but I soon realized the best thing is to listen hard - and then forget all about it and let your own vision take over... ultimately your job is to make the piece work on its own terms."
Medical experts finally recognize that PTSD, although invisible, is as real a wound of war as physical battle scars and takes longer (if ever) to heal. "I'm sure it's not only here in America," comments Christian Ellis, USMC Sergeant (ret), who suffers from PTSD and is the story consultant on the opera. His experiences originally inspired the work. "People just don't realize that the war never ends for us, even if we're at home laughing and joking. Even if you've got all 10 fingers and all 10 toes, it's those invisible injuries we're struggling to overcome." The opera has helped Ellis deal with his own demons.
Returned veterans Michael Hebert (USMC) and Jon Harguindeguy (USN) have turned to art to further their healing. Both are helping design LBO's production.
Long Beach Opera's cast features baritone LaMarcus Miller, who will sing the lead role of Philip. His performance as Philip in the recent Kennedy Center workshop was hailed as "sensitive and vulnerable...a riveting portrayal...His vocal command will have you hanging onto every note." The ensemble cast also includes Suzan Hanson as Philip's mother Colleen; Todd Strange, Jason Switzer, Gregorio González and Arnold L. Geis as Philip's fellow soldiers; and Jonathan Locayo, Zeffin Quinn Hollis, and Ani Maldjian as Iraqi civilians caught in the conflict.
The world premiere of Fallujah has been made possible by a generous grant to LBO from explore.org, a direct charitable activity of the Annenberg Foundation.
KCET Public Television in Southern California and the Link TV National Satellite Network, available to subscribers of DirecTV on channel 375 and DISH Network on channel 9410, will broadcast a live performance of Fallujah on March 18 at 8:00 pm (PT). The live broadcast will also simulstream on KCET.org/Fallujah and LinkTV.org/Fallujah.
A documentary on the making of the opera is currently in production by KCETLink and slated to premiere on Memorial Day on explore.org.
Composer: Tobin Stokes
Libretto: Heather Raffo
Story Consultant: Christian Ellis, USMC Sergeant (retired)
Venue: Army National Guard, 854 E. 7th Street, Long Beach, CA. 90813
Sat. March 12, 2016 at 8:00 pm
Sun. March 13, 2016 at 2:30 pm
Thu. March 17, 2016 at 8:00 pm
Fri. March 18, 2016 at 8:00 pm
Sat. March 19, 2016 at 2:30 pm and 8:00 PM
Sun. March 20, 2016 at 2:30 pm
One act, no intermission
Sung in English, no supertitles
Opera Talks: One hour before performances with LBO Artistic and General Director Andreas Mitisek and guest speakers.
Tickets: Single tickets range from $67 to $137. Reduced prices are offered to subscribers. Students see performances for $15 with ID, space available. Tickets can be purchased by calling LBO Box Office Services at 562-432-5934 or by going online to LBO's website: www.longbeachopera.org/tickets
Photo Credit: Michael Hebert