Opera ATX – Soldier Songs

Soldier Songs performance with Opera ATX Logo

“From child to warrior, and then to a third section where stories diverged and veterans reflected on their combat experience and challenges reintegrating back into civilian life, “Soldier Songs” brought it all home.”
–Los Angeles Times

In celebration of its bold new artistic initiative, Opera ATX, Austin Opera is proud to present the Central Texas premiere of an innovative new multimedia work, Soldier Songs, by acclaimed composer David T. Little, April 5–6, 2019 at the historic Paramount Theatre in the heart of downtown Austin.

Soldier Songs combines elements of theater, opera, rock-infused concert music, and video by filmmaker Bill Morrison to explore themes of loss, the exploitation of innocence, and the difficulty of expressing the truth of war. The libretto, created by the composer, was adapted from recorded interviews with veterans of five wars. Soldier Songs traces changing perceptions of war in our society and by those who experience it. It is a chilling and realistic view of our media-crazed, war-machine culture, and of the nature of power in war.

The Opera ATX presentation is produced by Beth Morrison Projects, which has been hailed as a “contemporary opera mastermind” (Los Angeles Times) and “the edge of innovation…its own genre” (Opera News). The opera features baritone David Adam Moore, who starred in the premiere of this production. The guest chamber ensemble Newspeak, a mainstay of the New York indie-classical scene, is conducted by Todd Reynolds, and the evening is directed by Ashley Tata, all in their Austin Opera debuts.

With its poignant libretto, driving music, and surprising visual counterpoint, Soldier Songs perfectly represents the promise of Opera ATX: bringing innovative new works, sensational artists, and visionary creative teams to Austin.

Approximately 75 minutes; performed without intermission.

Note: This presentation uses sudden loud noises, flashing lights, simulated combat, descriptions of violence and death, and language that may be offensive.

Read more about the launch of Opera ATX and the Five Weeks of Opera Punchcard here.

Plan your Opera ATX experience here.

David Little Headshot

David T. Little*
Music and Text

Ashley Tata*
Stage Director

Beth Morrison*
Producer

Production

Music and Text: David T. Little*
With Film By: Bill Morrison*
Stage Director: Ashley Tata*
Production by: Beth Morrison Projects*
Conductor: Todd Reynolds*

In English

*Austin Opera debut

Soldier Songs contrasts the perceptions and realities of a soldier from the age of six through sixty-six. Based on interviews with veterans, and the culmination of 9 years of work by composer David T. Little, Soldier Songs is constructed in three sections: Child, Warrior, and Elder, yet the movements flow seamlessly from start to finish.

CHILD

A boy first encounters war through toys and games, playing with action figures available with an arsenal of accessories. As he grows, video games replace these dolls. These games offer an immersive, combat-like experience in which the player kills countless “enemies,” and where the only consequence of the player’s death is a brief wait while the game reloads. As the boy becomes a young adult, the game becomes more real. He registers for the draft at age eighteen. Reflecting on the highly randomized selective service process from the Vietnam War, he counts each day with a passing dread at the thought of combat. Once deployed, he counts the days again, but differently: down from 365, hoping he makes it to one.

WARRIOR

The boy is now a modern-day soldier. As technology has changed the tools and language of war, it has also changed the experience of combat. The soldier creates his own soundtrack: piping heavy metal into ear buds, he recreates the feeling of the video game, shooting abstract enemies that appear as pixels on a screen. But the game becomes too real, and the brutality of war sets in. Images of death, destruction and killing that may have been exciting in action movies back home, now play out with horror before his eyes. He seeks refuge from incoming ordinance; an unbearable experience that he knows will stay with him for the rest of his life.

ELDER

The stories diverge. Veterans reflect on their experiences in combat, or discuss the challenges of reintegration into civilian life. One man reflects on the futility of an endless war. Another confronts the bereavement team sent to notify him of his son’s death in combat. The opera concludes with recorded interviews—the composer’s family and friends: the soldiers who inspired this work—as our soldier opens his mouth to tell his story.

by David T. Little

Download the libretto here.

The upcoming performances of Soldier Songs are the first in Austin Opera’s new series Opera ATX. The development of Opera ATX has been a lot like Austin itself – quirky, fast-paced, innovative, and fueled by many a brainstorm session over tacos.

When General Director & CEO Annie Burridge arrived at Austin Opera in 2016, she had a vision for bringing new and different kinds of works to Austin. Influenced by her time at Opera Philadelphia –one of the American opera companies at the vanguard of producing new operas in new spaces – Burridge knew she wanted to unlock Austin Opera’s creative potential.

“One of the things that most intrigued me about Austin Opera was its possibility for growth,” she says. “The company was in such a unique position to engage in new ways with the fascinating demographics of Austin, and that excited me.”

After settling in to Austin life and building out her team, including the key hire of Nathan DePoint as Director of Artistic Operations, Burridge channeled that excitement and led the organization through a methodical process of strategic planning to see if her vision would align with the company’s history and mission – and with the needs and desires of Austin’s audiences.

“Austin is such a fabulously diverse city, and we really wanted to harness its roots in live music, its burgeoning tech industry, and its creative spirit,” says Burridge. Overlaying her background in data-driven market research with the results of the new strategic planning process, her team found a perfect match of mission and audience, and Opera ATX was born.

The goal of Opera ATX is to stretch the boundaries of what audiences consider as opera. “For the adventurous opera enthusiast, we want to add another experience for them,” Burridge explains. “And for those who have never been to opera, we want to add an enticing entry point for them.”

“We are so fortunate to have such a great home in the Long Center, and they have been incredible partners in our productions of traditional opera,” Burridge stresses. “But to fully unlock opera’s potential to connect with new and different audiences; we needed options for more intimate spaces to produce different kinds of works. The Paramount – such an iconic theater in Austin’s history – was the perfect place to start this new endeavor.”

The inaugural production of Opera ATX was an easy choice.  Opera seasons are usually planned two years in advance or more, but Burridge and DePoint had to plan the launch of Opera ATX much more nimbly. They soon zeroed in on the composer David T. Little, with whom they had both worked before on new commissions. And the composer’s Solider Songs had an innovative production by Beth Morrison Projects that seemed tailor-made for the Paramount. Plus, baritone David Adam Moore, who originated the role at this production’s premiere, was available, and he already had a following in Austin after his electrifying performance in Austin Opera’s The Manchurian Candidate in 2016. (As a bonus, he was already cast in the company’s Silent Night, which was performed at the Long Center this past January.)

“With Beth and both Davids on board, we were good to go!” says Burridge.

Collaboration and partnership will continue to be the core values of Austin Opera, and Opera ATX allows Burridge and her team to add to their growing roster of key allies. “In addition to our longstanding relationship with the Long Center and our new partnership with the Butler School of Music, we have been so proud to work with the Paramount, Camp Mabry, the Texas Military Forces Museum, and so many other veterans groups in realizing Soldier Songs. In the future we also hope to work with presenters like the Fusebox Festival and SXSW, to tap into their communities and show how opera can be a great conduit for the ideas they are exploring.”

Burridge is proud that other organizations are also seeing the potential of Austin as a lab for new opera experiences. “There are great organizations in town like One Ounce Opera and LOLA that are out there pushing boundaries, and we champion their efforts alongside our own,” she says. “This spring, there are five weekends in a row when new opera will be presented here. Austin is really the next hotbed of operatic innovation.”

As for the future of Opera ATX, Burridge knows the works will have a unique and engaging subject matter and will strive to include the latest cutting-edge technologies like projection mapping and virtual reality. Her hope is to commission more work from living – and local – composers. “Austin is a great city for creative people, and we want composers to use Austin as their lab,” Burridge says. “From indie rock to lieder, we want Opera ATX to be a showcase for Austin’s vibrant musical scene.”

Overview

In celebration of its bold new artistic initiative, Opera ATX, Austin Opera is proud to present the Central Texas premiere of an innovative new multimedia work, Soldier Songs, by acclaimed composer David T. Little, April 5–6, 2019 at the historic Paramount Theatre in the heart of downtown Austin.

Soldier Songs combines elements of theater, opera, rock-infused concert music, and video by filmmaker Bill Morrison to explore themes of loss, the exploitation of innocence, and the difficulty of expressing the truth of war. The libretto, created by the composer, was adapted from recorded interviews with veterans of five wars. Soldier Songs traces changing perceptions of war in our society and by those who experience it. It is a chilling and realistic view of our media-crazed, war-machine culture, and of the nature of power in war.

The Opera ATX presentation is produced by Beth Morrison Projects, which has been hailed as a “contemporary opera mastermind” (Los Angeles Times) and “the edge of innovation…its own genre” (Opera News). The opera features baritone David Adam Moore, who starred in the premiere of this production. The guest chamber ensemble Newspeak, a mainstay of the New York indie-classical scene, is conducted by Todd Reynolds, and the evening is directed by Ashley Tata, all in their Austin Opera debuts.

With its poignant libretto, driving music, and surprising visual counterpoint, Soldier Songs perfectly represents the promise of Opera ATX: bringing innovative new works, sensational artists, and visionary creative teams to Austin.

Approximately 75 minutes; performed without intermission.

Note: This presentation uses sudden loud noises, flashing lights, simulated combat, descriptions of violence and death, and language that may be offensive.

Read more about the launch of Opera ATX and the Five Weeks of Opera Punchcard here.

Plan your Opera ATX experience here.

Cast and Production
David Little Headshot

David T. Little*
Music and Text

Ashley Tata*
Stage Director

Beth Morrison*
Producer

Production

Music and Text: David T. Little*
With Film By: Bill Morrison*
Stage Director: Ashley Tata*
Production by: Beth Morrison Projects*
Conductor: Todd Reynolds*

In English

*Austin Opera debut

Synopsis

Soldier Songs contrasts the perceptions and realities of a soldier from the age of six through sixty-six. Based on interviews with veterans, and the culmination of 9 years of work by composer David T. Little, Soldier Songs is constructed in three sections: Child, Warrior, and Elder, yet the movements flow seamlessly from start to finish.

CHILD

A boy first encounters war through toys and games, playing with action figures available with an arsenal of accessories. As he grows, video games replace these dolls. These games offer an immersive, combat-like experience in which the player kills countless “enemies,” and where the only consequence of the player’s death is a brief wait while the game reloads. As the boy becomes a young adult, the game becomes more real. He registers for the draft at age eighteen. Reflecting on the highly randomized selective service process from the Vietnam War, he counts each day with a passing dread at the thought of combat. Once deployed, he counts the days again, but differently: down from 365, hoping he makes it to one.

WARRIOR

The boy is now a modern-day soldier. As technology has changed the tools and language of war, it has also changed the experience of combat. The soldier creates his own soundtrack: piping heavy metal into ear buds, he recreates the feeling of the video game, shooting abstract enemies that appear as pixels on a screen. But the game becomes too real, and the brutality of war sets in. Images of death, destruction and killing that may have been exciting in action movies back home, now play out with horror before his eyes. He seeks refuge from incoming ordinance; an unbearable experience that he knows will stay with him for the rest of his life.

ELDER

The stories diverge. Veterans reflect on their experiences in combat, or discuss the challenges of reintegration into civilian life. One man reflects on the futility of an endless war. Another confronts the bereavement team sent to notify him of his son’s death in combat. The opera concludes with recorded interviews—the composer’s family and friends: the soldiers who inspired this work—as our soldier opens his mouth to tell his story.

by David T. Little

Media
Libretto

Download the libretto here.

Opera ATX: The Origin Story

The upcoming performances of Soldier Songs are the first in Austin Opera’s new series Opera ATX. The development of Opera ATX has been a lot like Austin itself – quirky, fast-paced, innovative, and fueled by many a brainstorm session over tacos.

When General Director & CEO Annie Burridge arrived at Austin Opera in 2016, she had a vision for bringing new and different kinds of works to Austin. Influenced by her time at Opera Philadelphia –one of the American opera companies at the vanguard of producing new operas in new spaces – Burridge knew she wanted to unlock Austin Opera’s creative potential.

“One of the things that most intrigued me about Austin Opera was its possibility for growth,” she says. “The company was in such a unique position to engage in new ways with the fascinating demographics of Austin, and that excited me.”

After settling in to Austin life and building out her team, including the key hire of Nathan DePoint as Director of Artistic Operations, Burridge channeled that excitement and led the organization through a methodical process of strategic planning to see if her vision would align with the company’s history and mission – and with the needs and desires of Austin’s audiences.

“Austin is such a fabulously diverse city, and we really wanted to harness its roots in live music, its burgeoning tech industry, and its creative spirit,” says Burridge. Overlaying her background in data-driven market research with the results of the new strategic planning process, her team found a perfect match of mission and audience, and Opera ATX was born.

The goal of Opera ATX is to stretch the boundaries of what audiences consider as opera. “For the adventurous opera enthusiast, we want to add another experience for them,” Burridge explains. “And for those who have never been to opera, we want to add an enticing entry point for them.”

“We are so fortunate to have such a great home in the Long Center, and they have been incredible partners in our productions of traditional opera,” Burridge stresses. “But to fully unlock opera’s potential to connect with new and different audiences; we needed options for more intimate spaces to produce different kinds of works. The Paramount – such an iconic theater in Austin’s history – was the perfect place to start this new endeavor.”

The inaugural production of Opera ATX was an easy choice.  Opera seasons are usually planned two years in advance or more, but Burridge and DePoint had to plan the launch of Opera ATX much more nimbly. They soon zeroed in on the composer David T. Little, with whom they had both worked before on new commissions. And the composer’s Solider Songs had an innovative production by Beth Morrison Projects that seemed tailor-made for the Paramount. Plus, baritone David Adam Moore, who originated the role at this production’s premiere, was available, and he already had a following in Austin after his electrifying performance in Austin Opera’s The Manchurian Candidate in 2016. (As a bonus, he was already cast in the company’s Silent Night, which was performed at the Long Center this past January.)

“With Beth and both Davids on board, we were good to go!” says Burridge.

Collaboration and partnership will continue to be the core values of Austin Opera, and Opera ATX allows Burridge and her team to add to their growing roster of key allies. “In addition to our longstanding relationship with the Long Center and our new partnership with the Butler School of Music, we have been so proud to work with the Paramount, Camp Mabry, the Texas Military Forces Museum, and so many other veterans groups in realizing Soldier Songs. In the future we also hope to work with presenters like the Fusebox Festival and SXSW, to tap into their communities and show how opera can be a great conduit for the ideas they are exploring.”

Burridge is proud that other organizations are also seeing the potential of Austin as a lab for new opera experiences. “There are great organizations in town like One Ounce Opera and LOLA that are out there pushing boundaries, and we champion their efforts alongside our own,” she says. “This spring, there are five weekends in a row when new opera will be presented here. Austin is really the next hotbed of operatic innovation.”

As for the future of Opera ATX, Burridge knows the works will have a unique and engaging subject matter and will strive to include the latest cutting-edge technologies like projection mapping and virtual reality. Her hope is to commission more work from living – and local – composers. “Austin is a great city for creative people, and we want composers to use Austin as their lab,” Burridge says. “From indie rock to lieder, we want Opera ATX to be a showcase for Austin’s vibrant musical scene.”

8:00PM, Friday, April 5, 2019
Paramount Theater
713 Congress Ave
Austin, Texas 78701
8:00PM, Saturday, April 6, 2019
Paramount Theater
713 Congress Ave
Austin, Texas 78701
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