New opera goes to the battlefield and back

Long Beach Opera has a world premiere coming up that touches a few nerves, and covers territory that is sorely unexamined.  Fallujah is a new opera by Tobin Stokes and Heather Raffo that looks at not only the horrors of war, but the struggles of living beyond it.  The first opera to address composed about the Iraq War, the piece has been workshopped in several US locations over the last couple of years, but this is first full production of the completed work.  The cast includes LaMarcus Miller in the lead role, as well as familiar faces such as Todd StrangeSuzan Hanson, Ani Maldjian, Zeffin Quinn Hollis, Jason Switzer, and Arnold Livingston Geis.

Connected to this long-awaited project are two free events on the next two Saturdays (2/20 and 2/27), expanding awareness of the issues veterans face and putting the opera front and center as a means of opening new lines of communication. We’ve put both of these additional events on the Lister calendar, and hope you’ll help to spread the word and encourage as many people as possible to attend.  Press release follows.

Our intro was updated 1/19/16 — While another opera about the Iraq War premiered last year, this project started in 2011, and was composed earlier.  Thanks to LBO for the clarification.


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[Press release]

HOPE AND HEALING

The battle doesn’t end on the front line; it only just begins. LBO introduces the world premiere of FALLUJAH!

Presented in cooperation with the Long Beach Veterans Administration Hospital and in partnership with explore.org
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On Saturday afternoon, February 20, 2016, Long Beach Opera (LBO) presents “HOPE AND HEALING” at the Veterans Administration Hospital of Long Beach. Discover how the first opera composed about the Iraq War can bring veterans out of isolation and lead to healing. Join a conversation with U.S. Marine veteran Christian Ellis, whose life and work inspired Fallujah. Meet composer Tobin Stokes and Iraqi-American playwright Heather Raffo as they introduce their work about the aftermath of war and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). See how the visual artwork of two Iraq War veterans will become part of the opera, revealing its therapeutic potential. Hear excerpts from the upcoming world premiere of Fallujah sung by cast members. Engage the panelists in a talkback discussion. The afternoon will reveal how art and music can not only deepen our understanding of war and its painful consequences, but also open the doors to hope and healing.

Fallujah is as current as today’s news. In this emotionally engaging opera, a U.S. Marine who participated in the Battle of Fallujah brings the war home with him after he is wounded and discharged. In his struggle with PTSD, the strength of his mother and the vivid memories of a young Iraqi boy, who befriended him and later became a victim of the war, help the Marine find a path to reconciliation and recovery.

On average 22 veterans commit suicide every day, a mortality rate which far exceeds combat statistics. This grim cost of war is paid not only by the soldiers individually, but by their families, friends, and communities. Medical experts finally recognize that PTSD, although invisible, is as real a wound of war as physical battle scars.

Panelists include the creators of the opera – composer Tobin Stokes, librettist Iraqi-American Heather Raffo, and story consultant U.S. Marine Christian Ellis; Andreas Mitisek, LBO’s artistic and general director who will also stage the opera; VA PTSD expert, Dr. John Huang; and veteran artists Michael Hebert and Jon Harguindeguy. Following a formal discussion, the audience will be invited to ask the panelists questions. “Hope and Healing” will take place from 3:30 pm to 5:45 pm. Light refreshments will be served.


Hope and Healing

When: Saturday, February 20, 2016, from 3:30 PM to 5:45 PM
Where: Learning Center, VA Hospital, 5901 E 7th St, Long Beach, CA 90822
Admission: Free event. Reservations can be made online at www.longbeachopera.org.

EVENT SCHEDULE

3:30 – 4:00 PM
Light refreshments
4:00 – 4:10 PM
Introduction by LBO Artistic and General Director Andreas Mitisek
4:10 – 4:30 PM
Excerpts from Fallujah performed by members of the Cast
4:30 – 5:15 PM
Panel Discussion (Andreas Mitisek, Tobin Stokes, Heather Raffo, Christian Ellis, Dr. John Huang, Michael Hebert, Jon Harguindeguy.)
5:15 – 5:45 PM
Q & A with the Audience

Beginning March 12 and ending March 20, 2016, Fallujah will be given its world premiere by LBO in partnership with explore.org. The work will be staged at the Army National Guard Armory, 854 E 7th Street, Long Beach. Tickets for the six performances are currently being sold through the LBO Box Office (562-432-5934) and on www.longbeachopera.org. Background on Fallujah and bios of the creative team and cast members can also be found on the website.

Acknowledgements: This event is presented in partnership with explore.org and with the support of the Veterans Administration Hospital of Long Beach.


Additional Free Event:

Film Screening of That Which I Love Destroys Me

Presented by LBO in collaboration with the Art Theatre of Long Beach.

The documentary That Which I Love Destroys Me is an uncensored look at the current epidemic of PTSD and severe mental trauma being experienced by service members returning from war. Released in March 2015, this film by director Ric Roman Waugh documents the struggle by Jayson Ford and Tyler Grey, two elite soldiers who return from Afghanistan bearing the invisible wound of war – PTSD, leading to alcohol and drug addiction.

Date:  February 27, 2016
Where:  Art Theatre of Long Beach, 2025 E. 4th Street, Long Beach, CA. 90814
Runtime: 65 minutes
Admission: Free event. Includes the film and light refreshments.

Program Schedule:

10:50-11:00 AM
Remarks by LBO Director Andreas Mitisek and special guests (TBA)
11:00-12:05 PM
Screening of That Which I Love Destroys Me
12:05-12:30 PM
Q & A with the audience


ABOUT LONG BEACH OPERA:

Long Beach Opera (LBO) is internationally known for its cutting-edge interpretations of unconventional repertoire. LBO creates immediate, inventive, and often boldly avant-garde productions for an adventurous audience and stands apart from most opera companies in the number of world, American, and West Coast premieres the company has staged. Founded in 1979, it is the oldest professional opera company in the Los Angeles/Orange County region with a performance history of more than 110 operas, ranging from the earliest works of the 17th century to operas of the 21st.

Long Beach Opera
Artistic and General Director Andreas Mitisek
507 Pacific Avenue
Long Beach, CA 90802
562-432-5934

www.longbeachopera.org

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Featured photo by SFC Johan Charles Van Boers, U.S. Army.  Public domain image made available through Wikimedia Commons, and added here by the editor.

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