eNewsletter, March 2018: The Falling and The Rising
THE UNITED STATES ARMY FIELD BAND • WASHINGTON, D.C.
The mission of The U.S. Army Field Band is to serve and inspire the American people by telling the Army story and honoring our Soldiers and Veterans at home and abroad. In 2015, Staff Sergeant Benjamin Hilgert of the Soldiers’ Chorus conceived of a way to carry out that mission more effectively than ever: an opera based on the true stories of active duty Soldiers.
SSG Hilgert took his idea for a “Soldier’s Opera” to the Army Field Band’s commander, Colonel Jim Keene, who saw the potential and invited him to submit a proposal. When the project was later green-lit, the search began for collaborators who would bring the opera to life. SSG Hilgert found his collaborators in librettist Jerre Dye and composer Zach Redler.
“I spent months researching composers, librettists, source material, the history of military operas, etc. Jerre’s work stood head and shoulders above the rest in its ability to transport the audience, to make the theater vanish as the story drew you in. And Jerre’s enthusiasm for the project was overwhelming. He had recently worked on a theater project based on interviews with women Veterans and had developed a sense of devotion to Veterans’ issues. It was a perfect fit.”
The partnership with Jerre Dye led SSG Hilgert to composer Zach Redler, who had worked with Dye before and had a strong background in opera and musical theater. The opera was commissioned with funding from Texas Christian University, as well as some of the most prominent opera companies in America, including the Seattle Opera, San Diego Opera, Arizona Opera, and Opera Memphis.
The story for The Falling and the Rising was taken directly from interviews with returning Soldiers at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, The Old Guard at Fort Myer, and Fort Meade, Maryland. It takes place largely in the mind of a Soldier following a roadside attack, following her through a coma-induced dreamscape as she has powerful encounters with fellow servicemembers.
The response to The Falling and the Rising has been overwhelming. There are already productions planned at Seattle Opera, San Diego Opera, Arizona Opera, Opera Memphis, and Seagle Music Colony, with more sure to follow. “Opera right now is at a huge turning point,” said Dye. “Opera, in America at least, is trying to figure out what it wants to be, and what it needs to become, and what it needs to do…The mission of this piece is to connect civilians to Soldiers using art. All these opera companies are saying, ‘yes, this is exactly what we’ve been looking for. This is what we need, this is exactly what we want to do.’ That is incredibly exciting.”
“The world premiere for The Falling and the Rising will take place at Texas Christian University on April 6, 2018.
The U.S. Army Field Band
4214 Field Band Drive STE 5330
Fort George G. Meade MD 20755-7055
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