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OPERA SCENE – “SOLDIER SONGS”

WAR GAMES BECOME WAR REALITY

The inaugural production of San Diego Opera’s new Detour Series is a tell-it-as-it-is lifetime experience of one man suffering from the terror of war. Based on interviews with veterans from five wars, “Soldier Songs” is a relevant multimedia work that explores the experience of war on the human psyche.

The opera with a single baritone performer traces a man’s life from the age of 6 to 66 as he moves from the pleasures of playing war games as a youth to serving in the military as a real warrior and ending with the tragedy of losing his son in another war. The opera begins with the attitude of “I never speak about this to anyone” and ends with the need to talk.

The West Coast premiere of the opera is performed at the Balboa Theatre in three consecutive performances beginning on Veterans Day November 11. The focus for audience development will be San Diego’s large military population that can relate to a soldier’s song about military experiences both gallant and desolate.

The solo artist is David Adam Moore who made his company debut in 2009 in “Romeo and Juliet.” His recent appearances have been with Seattle Opera, Pittsburgh Opera and other U.S. regional companies as well as several major European opera houses, including La Scala Milan and the Salzburg Festival. His Metropolitan Opera debut will be in the 2017 season.

This role as Everyman Soldier has been Moore’s specialty at other opera companies since the work had its debut in 2006. He also gained some notoriety when he was featured in the 2012 Barihunk Calendar reflecting several of the bare-chest roles he has performed including Billy Budd, Stanley Kowalski in “A Streetcar Named Desire,” Zurga in “The Pearl Fishers,” and “Dead Man Walking.”

This fame should not detract from Moore’s heroic baritone voice and bravado performance reminiscent of the golden days of baritone Sherrill Milnes during his illustrious career at the Metropolitan Opera.

“Soldier Songs” is staged with innovative multimedia projections. The 60-miniute opera has two supernumeraries playing the soldier as a boy and later as an aged veteran. There will be an Act II panel discussion for audience participation with a specially selected panel of U.S. Armed Forces veterans sharing their views of the production and their difficulty of expressing the truth of war.

The composer of “Soldier Songs,” David T. Little, is not new to the opera world. His other operas “Dog Days” and “JFK” had successful premiers in 2012 and 2016. His orchestral works are performed by major symphony orchestras in America and abroad. Little is composer-in-residence with Opera Philadelphia where several of his new works were brought to life.

“Soldier songs” is performed in English with the English text projected over the proscenium. For ticket information, call (619) 533 7000 or visit http://www.sdopera.com.

ADDENDUM REGARDING CONTEMPORARY OPERA

This is addressed to the operaphiles that prefer the familiar grand opera repertoire and usually reject most contemporary operas of the 20th and 21st century. It is now mandatory for a regional opera company for survival to present unique productions that are more like “opera theater” than grand opera. This new look for opera includes Broadway musicals, Viennese light operas, Gilbert and Sullivan musicals and most important the contemporary operas prepared for presentation in different venues than the formality of an opera house.

The major regional opera companies such as Houston, Chicago, Seattle and San Francisco have successfully mounted these productions as part of their opera season and are drawing a new audience. The hottest ticket in Europe this summer was at the traditional Salzburg Festival for the performances of Leonard Bernstein’s “Westside Story.”

San Diego Opera has embarked on this break-through venture of the Detour Series following the success of most regional opera companies that are struggling to attract a younger audience. A recent study in “The Opera News” published by the Metropolitan Opera Company discloses that these innovative new opera theater productions attract more than 50% of their audience under the age of 35 years.

I found that it takes a little effort to adapt to the music and staging of new operas. It’s like going to the Globe Theatre or the La Jolla Playhouse to see a new play. My advice to the traditional opera subscribers is to give opera theater a chance. The artists will be of the best opera quality and the unique staging is innovative.

John Patrick Ford is a past president of San Diego Opera and assists in maintaining the opera archive at San Diego State University