The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: The new opera “Fallujah” is based on the Iraq War. Will the Madison Opera or the University Opera be interested in staging it? Plus, this afternoon is your last chance to hear “Carmina Burana” performed by the Madison Symphony Orchestra and Chorus. Read three rave reviews.

May 1, 2016
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ALERT: This afternoon at 2:30 p.m. in Overture Hall is your last chance to hear the Madison Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in “Carmina Burana” in the MSO’s spectacular season-closing program. Read three rave reviews by local critics:

Here is what John W. Barker wrote for Isthmus:

http://isthmus.com/music/big-orchestra-monuments/

Here is what Greg Hettmansberger wrote for Madison Magazine and his blog WhatGregSays:

https://whatgregsays.wordpress.com/2016/04/30/farewells-to-a-season-and-some-friends/

And here is what Jessica Courtier wrote for The Capital Times:

http://host.madison.com/concert-review-mso-offers-spectacular-finale-to-season-with-respighi/article_3ac27a49-8212-5983-855b-245dd011deef.html

By Jacob Stockinger

Who says you can’t mix art and current events?

Especially if the current events also count as history, which has often been an inspiration for fiction and art.

Iraq and Afghanistan — the United States’ longest wars — are back in the news again making big headlines. And PTSD or Post-traumatic Stress Disorder is a story that never goes away.

But not all of the news has to do with politics, suicide bombings, increased troop commitments and fierce fighting in a civil war.

It also has to do with art.

Specifically, opera — that potent combination of theater and music.

The Long Beach Opera commissioned and recently premiered a new chamber opera based on the Iraq War and PTSD (Posttraumatic Stress Disorder), and us based on the life and work of U.S. Marine Christian Ellis . It is called “Fallujah” and it is the first such opera to be written. (A photo below is by Keith Ian Polakoff for the Long Beach Opera.)

You can hear librettist Heather Raffo and composer Tobin Stokes discuss the opera in the YouTube video at the bottom.

fallujah iraq opera Keith Ian Polakoff Long Beach Opera

It makes The Ear wonder if it might find its way into an upcoming season of the Madison Opera, which tends to use its smaller winter productions to stage works that are newer, smaller, more adventurous and more exploratory.

Or maybe the University Opera at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music might find it a good choice for a student production?

Anyway, here is a fine write-up that you can find on NPR or National Public Radio:

http://www.npr.org/sections/deceptivecadence/2016/03/18/470973622/an-iraq-war-opera-finds-a-vein-of-empathy


Classical music: Iraq war veteran and writer Brian Castner will see “The Long Walk,” his memoir of his own experience with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), turned into an opera that will premiere in 2014 in New York City.

August 5, 2013
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By Jacob Stockinger

After a decade or more of Americans fighting wars, it seems almost inevitable.

Lots of people have talked about PTSD – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

But not too many people have sung about it.

That could change soon.

Iraq war veteran and writer Brian Castner (below) will soon see his memoir “The Long Walk,” about his experience in dealing with war and PTSD, turned into an opera that is scheduled to receive its world premiere in 2014 at the American Lyric Theater in New York City which has commissioned the work.

Brian Castner

The Long Walk book cover

The composer is Jeremy Howard Beck and the librettist is Stephanie Fleischmann. They are pictured in the photo below with Brian Castner in the center.

The Long Walk USE big L-R. librettist Stephanie Fleischmann, writer Brian Castner, librettist Jeremy Howard Beck for American Lyric Theater

Recently NPR’s terrific classical music blog “Deceptive Cadence” featured a piece on the collaboration and subject matter. It included an overview with interviews and background plus an audio snippet that is also worth listening to

Here is a link:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2013/07/20/203681940/a-veterans-true-story-leaps-from-page-to-stage

And here is a link to another story about the project on Opera Pulse, an online website specializing in opera;

http://www.operapulse.com/opera-news/2013/02/12/american-lyric-theater-commissions-the-long-walk/

The Ear likes the idea. It is certainly is a different and more contemporary take on war and armed conflict than the romanticized and melodramatic versions one often finds in grand opera or even a lot of classic literature.

It seems more realistic and more in keeping with the current way that veterans wage armed conflict and then return home to a different, more personal and more difficult war.

The Long Walk poster by American Lyric Theater

We’ll have to see how good it is. (See the YouTube video at the bottom for the creators discussing the new opera.)

But if it holds up as a work of musical and theatrical art, it sure would seem a natural choice for Madison – perhaps the Madison Opera, which next season will stage Jake Heggie’s “Dead Man Walking” or at least the University Opera at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which can afford to be more experimental and controversial.

What do you think of the idea or inspiration?

The Ear wants to hear.


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