World Premiere ‘Fallujah’ – The First Opera About The Iraq War Experience
Army National Guard on 7th Street – Long Beach, CA – March 12, 2016 – 8 p.m. PT
Long Beach Opera, explore.org and KCETLink Media Group Collaborate to Launch a Modern Opera About War and PTSD
KCET Public Television in Southern California and the Link TV National Satellite Network To Broadcast Live Performance of “Fallujah” on March 18 at 8 p.m. PT
Fallujah, the first opera on the Iraq war experience, is based on the real life stories of USMC Sergeant (ret) Christian Ellis, a machine gunner in Iraq whose platoon was ambushed and bombed, killing many in his troop and leaving him with a broken back. With the encouragement and support of philanthropist Charles Annenberg Weingarten, Christian transformed his demons of war into a work of art aimed at shining a light on the aftermath of war, PTSD, and the fragility of life.
The script, written by Heather Raffo, a New York-based librettist of Iraqi descent, is a culmination of tireless work with Ellis as well as hours of interviews with American soldiers and Iraqis, including her own family members living in Iraq. The score was created by acclaimed composer Tobin Stokes, who has constructed an adrenaline-fueled lyrical opera, in which poignant melodies soar against driving rhythms and threads, ranging from electric guitar to Iraqi oud.
LBO’s artistic and general director Andreas Mitisek’s visionary site-specific production of Fallujah will be staged at Army National Guard Armory on 7th Street. The production incorporates the visual artwork of two Iraq War veterans: Michael Herbert, a Marine who fought in Fallujah and later used painting as a therapeutic treatment for his PTSD, and Jon Harguindeguy, a Navy veteran who was deployed in Iraq and now leads an arts program at the VA Hospital in Long Beach for veterans. Their personal artwork will be projected on the walls during the performance to further immerse audiences in this moving story of reconciliation and recovery, and exhibit how art and music not only deepens our understanding of war and its painful consequences, but also open the doors to hope and healing.
KCETLink Media Group will present the U.S. broadcast premiere of Fallujah on Friday, March 18 at 8 p.m. PT. Directed by Emmy Award® winning television producer/director Ken Shapiro (The Academy Awards® and The Grammy Awards®) the opera will air LIVE on KCET, public television for Southern California, and Link TV, the national satellite network available to all subscribers of DirecTV on channel 375 and DISH Network on channel 9410. The live broadcast will also simulstream on eplore.org.
A documentary on the making of the opera is currently in production by KCETLink and slated to premiere on Memorial Day on explore.org. For more information on the documentary, please visit explore.org KCET.org and LinkTV.org.
Fallujah, The Story & Production:
“Bringing my experiences to life in Fallujah has given me hope, inspiration and a pathway to healing,” said Christian Ellis. “My hope is that the music, the words and the emotions are woven together in such a way that Fallujah touches not just servicemen who come home to experience deep turmoil, but anyone who is suffering.”
Fallujah offers a rare, operatic glimpse into the mind of a vet who struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder, and reveals that the battle doesn’t end on the front line; it only just begins. On average, 22 veterans commit suicide daily, a mortality rate that far exceeds combat statistics. This grim cost of war is paid not only by individual soldiers, but by their families, friends, and communities. Medical experts have only recently recognized that PTSD, although invisible, is a wound as real as physical battle scars.
The opera also follows mothers and sons from both sides of the battle lines who are forced to reconcile with a war that changes their relationships forever and puts their identities and sense of belonging into question. It is a heart-wrenching, mind-opening narrative that explores the changes that occur within us when we bear witness to violence, as well as the people and pathways that enable us to heal.
How Fallujah Became an Opera:
When philanthropist and filmmaker Charles Annenberg Weingarten first heard former USMC Sergeant Christian Ellis sing, he was deeply moved by the courage and soul Ellis displayed, and the complex issues modern service members face at home and abroad, Weingarten issued Ellis a new challenge: to turn the horrors of war into a body of work that anyone who suffers could learn and be inspired by. Five years later, Fallujah is set to become the first opera composed about the Iraq War Experience, in collaboration with Long Beach Opera, KCETLink Media Group, explore.org and The Annenberg Foundation.
“The ‘Christian Ellis’ story is representative of thousands of Marines from around the world who return from the horrors of war,” explained Weingarten. “Christian paints a vivid picture of the harrowing realities he and his comrades faced in Iraq. He tells of his experiences with emotional honesty, and with deep compassion and understanding for the opposing side.”
FALLUJAH was originally commissioned by City Opera Vancouver in 2010 – 2012, with the generous support of The Annenberg Foundation and explore.org, and at the initiative of Charles Annenberg Weingarten.