SEATTLE – When Seattle Opera’s brand-new opera, An American Dream, premieres this August, Japanese Americans will see the story of their community coming to life onstage.
Locally sourced personal histories such as the wartime incarceration of 120,000 Japanese Americans, many of whom were from the Seattle area, have provided inspiration for this world premiere.
Composed by Jack Perla with libretto by Jessica Murphy Moo, An American Dream is a deeply human and hauntingly relevant work that speaks to the universal immigrant experience.
In this story, the fate of two families unexpectedly becomes bound together following the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the heartbreak of World War II.
When the Kobayashi family (Nina Yoshida Nelsen, Adam Lau, and Hae Ji Chang) is forced to leave their home on an island in Puget Sound, Eva (D’Ana Lombard), a German Jew and her husband, Jim (Morgan Smith), an American veteran, move in.
As Eva awaits news from family in Germany, she slowly pieces together the history of her new home.
“Any art form must add new works to the established classics of the core repertoire, and with this opera, I feel we have something very special in store for our audiences,” said General Director Aidan Lang.
“Its storyline was sourced locally and belongs right here in the Pacific Northwest; but its scope and themes are far wider than that. They have a resonance, an appeal, and an emotional punch that transforms an important but little-told aspect of our history into something truly universal.”
The evening begins with a dramatic pre-performance experience in the McCaw Hall lobby beginning an hour before curtain.
Viewers will be able to see, hear, and experience what their region was like during World War II through documentaries, exhibits, and personal testimonies from people who were affected by the mass removal and incarceration of Japanese Americans.
During the opera, innovative staging and seating will bring the audience even closer to the action onstage.
Following the performance, viewers are invited to stay for a 30-minute post-show discussion featuring members of the creative team, artists and former incarcerees.
Because An American Dream was inspired by local stories and the desire to serve the community, Seattle Opera is proud to be collaborating on the project with official Community Partners including Holocaust Center for Humanity, Bainbridge Island Historical Museum, Densho, Japanese American Citizens League–Seattle, Museum of History & Industry (MOHAI), Wing Luke Museum of the Asia Pacific Experience and Los-Angeles-based Japanese American National Museum. From providing cultural and historical expertise, to collaborating with Seattle Opera on the world-premiere activities, each community partner has contributed in a unique and meaningful way.
Upcoming community events include a free preview featuring the librettist of An American Dream at Wing Luke Museum on June 30, as well as a preview showing at Bainbridge Performing Arts featuring the opera cast and piano accompaniment on August 13.
“Although the Japanese American incarceration during World War II is long past, it is important, now more than ever, to continue telling these stories,” said Beth Takekawa, Executive Director of Wing Luke Museum.
“Each day people come to our museum – whether in school groups, on tours of Seattle’s Japantown, or as individual visitors – eager to learn about these events, connect with the people who lived them, and explore what they mean for us today.”
An American Dream was developed through Seattle Opera’s Belonging(s) Project (seattleopera.org/belongings), a community storytelling initiative where participants were asked to consider: “If you had to leave your home today and couldn’t return, what would you want to take with you? Why is that object, that memory, or that connection to your past so important?”
Seattle Opera is deeply appreciative of the True-Brown Foundation for its visionary support of the Belonging(s) Project and An American Dream. Their generous philanthropy has fueled the development of these local stories into the compelling opera to take place this August.
Tickets are available online at seattleopera.org or by calling 206.389.7676 or 800.426.1619.
Tickets may also be purchased at the Box Office by visiting 1020 John Street (two blocks west of Fairview), Monday to Friday between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Ticket prices start at $50.
Online orders: seattleopera.org.
An American Dream Community Events:
Community Preview at Wing Luke Museum
6:30 p.m. on June 30, 2015
Free preview featuring Community Programs Manager Nick Malinowski, librettist Jessica Murphy Moo and a Community Partner representing the Japanese American community.
Tickets & Information: www.wingluke.org
Preview Performance at Bainbridge Performing Arts
7:30 p.m. on August 13, 2015
Final dress rehearsal open to the public featuring the cast and orchestra.
Tickets by donation
More Information: www.bainbridgeperformingarts.org
Events related to An American Dream received funding from OPERA America’s Opera Fund.
AN AMERICAN DREAM
Music by Jack Perla
Libretto by Jessica Murphy Moo
In English with English captions
Marion Oliver McCaw Hall
Performances: August 21 and August 23, 2015
Approximate Running Time: 2 hours (including a pre-performance event and a post-performance discussion).
7:00-8:00 p.m. (1:30-2:30 p.m. Sunday) Pre-show activities including documentaries, presentations with people who lived in our region during WWII, and historical exhibits
8:00 p.m. (2:30 p.m. Sunday) Performance begins
9:30 p.m. (4:00 p.m. Sunday) Post-performance audience and artist discussion
Jim: Morgan Smith
Eva: D’Ana Lombard †
Hiroko Kobayashi: Nina Yoshida Nelsen †
Setsuko Kobayashi: Hae Ji Chang †
Makoto Kobayashi: Adam Lau †
Conductor: Judith Yan †
Director: Peter Kazaras
Set Design: Robert Schaub
Video Design: Robert Bonniol, MODE Studios
Costume Design: Deborah Trout
Lighting Design: Connie Yun
Sets and Costumes: Seattle Opera
† Seattle Opera Debut
Production sponsor: True-Brown Foundation
About Seattle Opera
Seattle Opera is a leading opera company, recognized both in the United States and around the world.
The company is committed to advancing the cultural life in the Pacific Northwest with performances of the highest caliber, and through innovative education and community programs that take opera far beyond the McCaw Hall stage.
Each year, more than 95,000 people attend Seattle Opera performances and the company’s programs serve more than 65,000 people of all ages.
Seattle Opera is especially known for its acclaimed works in the Richard Wagner canon, and has created an “international attraction” in its presentation of Wagner’s epic Ring, according to The New York Times.
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