From Michael Sakir | Music Director:
I grew up without any emotional connection to the United States Armed Forces. I was born on the “Left Coast” to two Baby Boomer hippies. I attended a small liberal arts college in the 2000s where we protested the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I lived most of my life detached from and even slightly distrustful of the military. That is, until very recently when this perspective was challenged in a rather unexpected way.
Over the past two months, I have auditioned twenty current and retired members of the military for Opera Memphis’s upcoming production of The Falling & the Rising - a new opera (with a libretto by Jerre Dye and music by Zachary Redler) that chronicles the sacrifices made every day by the armed forces. The audition process for the opera’s Military Chorus made these intangible concepts of sacrifice, service, and honor so real to me by attaching faces and personal stories to the incredible men and women who protect and serve our country.
These singers, whose ages range from early-30s to late-70s, come from a wide variety of cultural and musical backgrounds. Many spent their entire careers in the military and most would identify themselves as amateur musicians who started off singing in high school and now perform regularly in church choirs. Many of them struggled with the decision to audition for Opera Memphis - unsure if they were willing to be exposed not only with their voices, but also with their personal histories in the military.
It was this degree of vulnerability that struck me at each and every audition. Some individuals pointed towards badges and insignia on military uniforms and told me what each symbol meant. Some recounted stories and showed me photographs of their children. Some shared horrible tragedies fighting overseas or the PTSD they and their families still suffer today. Some sustained injuries that have left them handicapped much like the characters portrayed in The Falling & the Rising. Some were vulnerable enough to cry in front of me, even though they had only met me fifteen minutes beforehand.
There were two consistent patterns among this wide variety of singers I met and heard. First, since even before they joined the service, music and singing were what kept their minds and souls more balanced and healthy. Second, every single one of them was excited and grateful that Opera Memphis was finally telling their untold stories on the opera stage.
The brief time I have spent with each of these individuals has already changed my life. Opera is unlike any art form in its ability to connect audiences to the struggles of its characters through storytelling and music. Music brought these twenty servicemen and women together. Their personal stories opened me up to a world of sacrifice and struggle that I had not previously appreciated.
It is this same world that Memphis's own Jerre Dye and Zachary Redler’s opera The Falling & the Rising dives into with beauty, humor, and grace. I hope that you, too, will open yourselves up to it at Opera Memphis’s production next month.
For more information or to purchase tickets, CLICK HERE.