OM Co-commissioned Opera Gains National Recognition

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OM Co-commissioned Opera Gains National Recognition

Opera Memphis's co-commissioned opera The Falling and the Rising gains national recognition with a featured 2-page spread in Opera America's summer 2018 magazine.

Composed by Zach Redler and Memphis's own Jerre Dye, The Falling and the Rising is a new american opera conceived by "Staff Sgt. Ben Hilgert, a tenor in the Soldiers' Chorus of the U.S. Army Field Band." It explores the sacrifice, duty, and human connection experienced by members of the armed services and is based on interviews and true stories from dozens of Army veterans. The story is told by an unnamed female soldier. After being injured in a roadside attack, she is placed in an induced coma, and in her dreamlike state she ecounters fellow service members who share their stories with her. The Falling and the Rising will premier in Memphis as a part of the 2019 Memphis Opera Festival held at Playhouse on the Square April 5-14. For more information or to purchase tickets for this hourlong piece, click HERE

From "A Song for the Army," Nicholas Wise, Opera America: New Tactics, New Vistas, Summer 2018, p 8-9:

"Over the past decade and a half, a period during which the U.S. has been engaged continuously in Middle East conflicts, a sub-genre of military-themed operas has emerged...Now an opera about the lives of soldiers has emerged directly out of the military itself. The Falling and the Rising, an hourlong work from composer Zach Redler and librettist Jerre Dye, is the brainchild of Staff Sgt. Ben Hilgert...

Hilgert says, 'I knew I wanted to commission an opera that told veterans' stories and to explore collaborations across the industry as broadly as I could...Darren Woods came up to me saying, "I want to champion this piece."' Woods, then general director of Fort Worth Opera, helped assemble a group of co-comissioners consisting of Texas Christian University, Seattle Opera, San Diego Opera, Arizona Opera and Opera Memphis. ...

'What we challenged Jerre and Zach with was that this had to be a piece that could be done just with piano, not only with all the bells and whistles,' he says. 'If it needed to be done in a high school gymnasium or an Army base, it had to be equally understood. We wanted it to be readily digestible to everyone who saw it -- with no barriers to anyone who wanted to produce it.'

In composing the work, Redler made accessibility a priority. 'We knew that this opera would be a first opera for a lot of people who wouldn't normally go to the opera, not purely because it's about military life, but because it's aligned with an actual military organization...The music is tonal and accessible, and people coming for the first time will be able to understand the text without subtitles.'

The U.S. Army was not a part of the commissioning consortium, since that would have been an implicit endorsement of other organizations, which is forbidden under military code.  Still, its involvement set the tone of the piece: apolitical, celebratory of service, and authentic to the lived experiences of soliders. 'We wanted to create a story that was about something more than pain and suffering,' says Dye. 'We wanted to create a story that was about human connection. The soldiers we talked to said again and again: "I don't know what I'd do without my battle buddies."'

The goal of The Falling and the Rising, Hilgert says, was not just to honor veterans' stories onstage and provide catharsis to the service people in the audience, but also to help civilians more fully understand military service."

Posted by Jillian Barron at 8:00 AM
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