The conductor Sergiu Celibidache (1912-1996) was once asked, “What is the purpose of music? Is it beauty?”
“NO!” he thundered. “The purpose of music is not beauty. The purpose of music is truth. Beauty is… the bait.”
Fallujah (our working title) began with a conversation between Charles Annenberg Weingarten and Christian Ellis, several years ago. It was Charlie’s inspiration to propose that this story of war, and survival, and the reality of veterans’ lives, can speak to all of us – in musical terms. It is City Opera’s obligation to lead in the creation of a brand-new work, one where we discover that the beauty of opera can impel an audience to think about the truth of its text.
War is nightmare for everyone. Understanding and compassion is remedy for everyone. In our story, we see layers of connection. USMC sergeant Philip Houston meets a teenage Iraqi named Wissam. Their almost alien encounter leads to tragedy, and revelation. Philip’s mother sings in duet with Wissam’s mother – but they never meet. The agonies of PTSD are played out in the memory and re-living of horror, but at the end Philip understands that he was named “to mean something”. Salvation lies in humane identity.
Opera has the power to speak these truths. But even the whole beauty of Tobin’s music, and the power of Heather’s libretto, and the truth of Christian’s battlefield encounters, are no guarantee that Fallujah gets it right. Its reception will confirm if we have succeeded.
If we have, we expect to produce and publish and record and televise Fallujah, and to see it presented in many houses, to see it toured, and to watch it take a place in the great tradition of strong and memorable opera. With your help, and with all thanks to the Annenberg Foundation, and explore.org, this is exactly what we will achieve.
IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO WATCH the creative process that led to Fallujah, you are invited to view the trailer, eleven brief webisodes, and the final 24:00 documentary that we produced for this project.
Led by John Bolton and Opus 59 Films of Vancouver, and made possible by an additional $100,000 grant from the Annenberg Foundation of Los Angeles, these films take you backstage across the whole of the work. Meet its creators, originators, singers and stagers. Please let us know what you think. Thank you.