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Seattle Opera.

An American Dream

Aug. 21 & 23, 2015

Overview

World Premiere - Seattle Opera Commission

By Jack Perla
Libretto by Jessica Murphy Moo

PROVOCATIVE DRAMA WITH LOCAL CONNECTIONS. Treasured possessions become symbols of home in a Seattle Opera commission, part of the Belonging(s) project, inspired by true stories from our region’s history. This world premiere opera set during World War II explores the lives of two Puget Sound women: a Japanese American facing internment and a German Jewish immigrant preoccupied by those she left behind. Their struggles to maintain a sense of place in our region are given added resonance through moderated audience discussions bookending the opera.

In English with English subtitles | at McCaw Hall

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Synopsis

America, the 1940s

March 1942
A farmhouse on a Puget Sound island. An American veteran, Jim Crowley, and Eva, his new wife, have come to buy a home. A German Jew, Eva desperately wants her parents to leave Germany, where their lives are in danger. She hopes her family will find peace and sanctuary in this place so far from the war. Meanwhile, inside the home, a Japanese American family has heard that the FBI has been searching homes and arresting people of Japanese descent. The family burns their precious Japanese belongings, attempting to erase all ties to Japan in the hopes that they will avoid arrest.

Eva waits outside as Jim, knowing he has the upper hand, tries to get Makoto Kobayashi to sell the land for a fraction of what it is worth. The FBI arrives at the home and tells Makoto he is under arrest; the FBI found some old dynamite in the shed out back, and they say this contraband makes him a threat. Makoto decides, under the pressure of the situation, to sell the land to Jim. As the FBI agents take Makoto away, he and his teenage daughter, Setsuko, promise to meet at the farmhouse, the only home they know, after the war.

May 1942
Setsuko and her mother, Hiroko, have packed up the house. Setsuko holds her suitcase, ready to leave, when a postman delivers a letter. Setsuko sees that it is from Germany, for a woman named Eva. Angry that she is being forced to leave her home, the girl steals the letter.

A few weeks later
Jim and Eva move into their new home; they designate a room for Eva's parents. Jim tries to keep Eva's hopes up. Eva notices that small items have been left behind in the home: a piece of a record and a photograph. When she finds a beautiful Hina-Matsuri doll hidden beneath a floorboard, Eva asks Jim about the previous owners. Jim tells her that they were "Japs," sent to the internment camps. He tells her to throw away the doll, that it doesn't belong in a room for her parents. Eva defies Jim's wishes and hides the doll, promising to find its owner and return it at war's end.

May 1945
Jim and Eva hear an announcement on the radio of Germany's surrender. Eva, who has learned about the Kobayashi family and their whereabouts, writes to Setsuko, telling Setsuko she has something that belongs to her.

Later that month
While still incarcerated, Setsuko receives the letter. When her mother, who is gravely ill, inquires about the letter, Setsuko lies and explains that the letter is from her father, telling them to keep hope because the war is nearly done.

August 1945
Puget Sound Farmhouse. When a letter comes back to Eva from Setsuko, Jim intercepts it and tells Eva that Setsuko is not allowed in their home. President Truman announces the dropping of the atomic bomb.

September 1945
There is a knock on the door. It is Setsuko, returning to the home. Setsuko confronts Jim, reminding him that he coerced her family to sell their home for next to nothing. Eva asks Jim if this is true.

Jim tries to explain his actions to Eva, but she can't accept what he has done. She leaves the room to retrieve the doll she has promised to return to Setsuko. While she is gone, Jim confronts Setsuko, and Setsuko admits to another reason for coming. She is here to return Eva's letter. Eva returns to the room, and Setsuko gives her the letter. From the stolen letter, Eva learns of her parents' fate, and she collapses. Setsuko must finish reading the letter for her. Jim tries to comfort Eva. Setsuko's father arrives at the front door.

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The Belonging(s) Project

An American Dream is a new kind of opera—one whose story from the opera company’s community. Seattle Opera’s Belonging(s) Project, started in 2011, asked participants to respond to the question: “If you had to leave your home today and couldn’t return, what would you want to take with you?”

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Cast

D'Ana Lombard

Eva

At Seattle Opera in 2017/18: Eva Crowley, An American Dream

Soprano (Garden City South, NY)
D’Ana Lombard returns to Seattle to reprise the role of Eva in An American Dream. Recent performances include her debut at North Carolina Opera as Countess Almaviva in The Marriage of Figaro and Rosina in The Ghosts of Versailles and Mimì in La bohème at Wolf Trap Opera. She has been a member of the Houston Grand Opera Studio and the Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artists Program at Los Angeles Opera. Recent awards include first prize in the 2014 Eleanor McCollum Competition Concert of Arias, a 2015 Sara Tucker Study Grant, and the Second Prize Award from the Gerda Lissner Foundation in 2016. 


Last updated: August 2017

D'Ana Lombard

Eva

Seattle Opera Debut

Hae Ji Chang

Setsuko

At Seattle Opera in 2015/16: Setsuko, An American Dream
Seattle Opera Debut

Soprano (Seoul, South Korea)

Hae Ji Chang makes her Seattle Opera debut creating the role of Setsuko. She has recently performed Pamina in Die Zauberflöte at San Jose Opera; Gilda in Rigoletto at PORTopera; and the roles of Crobyle in Thaïs, Frasquita in Carmen, and the First Lady in Die Zauberflöte at LA Opera. Additional credits include Susanna in The Marriage of Figaro at Aspen Opera Theater, Euridice in Orfeo ed Euridice at the New England Conservatory of Music, and the Zarzuela Prize at Plácido Domingo’s Operalia.. Upcoming engagements include Mimì in La bohème at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis and Marguerite in Faust with Seoul Metropolitan Opera.

Last updated: August 2015

Hae Ji Chang

Setsuko

Seattle Opera Debut

Nina Yoshida Nelsen

Hiroko Kobayashi

At Seattle Opera in 2017/18: Mama, Hiroko Kobayashi, An American Dream

Mezzo-Soprano (Santa Barbara, CA)
Nina Yoshida Nelsen returns to Seattle Opera after creating the role of Hiroko Kobayashi at the world premiere of An American Dream in 2015. She recently performed Suzuki in Madame Butterfly at Utah Opera and Atlanta Opera. Other recent roles include Khanh in the world premiere of Bound at Houston Grand Opera, the Secretary in The Consul at Opera Santa Barbara, Mother in Amahl and the Night Visitors at Avery Fisher Hall, and Cherubino in The Marriage of Figaro at Utah Opera. Upcoming engagements include Suzuki at Manitoba Opera and Mahler’s “Songs of a Wayfarer” with Grand Junction and Flagstaff Symphonies.

 

Nina Yoshida Nelsen

Hiroko Kobayashi

Seattle Opera Debut

Adam Lau

Makoto Kobayashi

At Seattle Opera in 2020/21: Masetto, Don Giovanni

Hometown: San Francisco, CA
Seattle Opera Debut: Papa, Makoto Kobayashi, An American Dream (’15)
Previously at Seattle Opera: Alidoro, Cinderella (’19); Kōbun Chino Otogawa, The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs (’19); Ferrando, Il Trovatore (’19); Sprecher, The Magic Flute (’17)
Recently: Raimondo, Lucia di Lammermoor (Lyric Opera of Kansas City); Basilio, The Barber of Seville (Portland Opera); Oroveso, Norma (Utah Opera); Soloist, Verdi Requiem (Carnegie Hall)
Upcoming: Angelotti, Tosca (The Dallas Opera); Tom, Un ballo in Maschera (Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte-Carlo)

Last Updated: December 2020

Adam Lau

Makoto Kobayashi

Seattle Opera Debut

Morgan Smith

Jim

At Seattle Opera in 2018/19: Paul, The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs

Hometown: Cincinnati, OH
Seattle Opera Debut: Donald, Billy Budd (’01)
Previously at Seattle Opera: Jim Crowley, An American Dream (’15); Count Almaviva, The Marriage of Figaro (’16); Riccardo, I puritani (’08) 
Recently: Joseph De Rocher, Dead Man Walking (Kentucky Opera); Eugene Onegin, Eugene Onegin (Lyric Opera of Kansas City); Scarpia, Tosca (National Taiwan Symphony Orchestra)
Upcoming: Herman Broder, Enemies, A Love Story (Kentucky Opera); Tadeusz, The Passenger (Israeli Opera); Musiklehrer, Ariadne auf Naxos (Cincinnati Opera)

Last updated: July 2018

Morgan Smith

Jim

David S. Hogan

FBI Agent 1

At Seattle Opera in 2017/18: An American Dream

Actor (Seattle, WA)

David Hogan reprises the role of the FBI Agent in An American Dream. His previous Seattle Opera acting roles include Puck in the Young Artists production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, Ambrogio in The Barber of Seville, and a plainclothes police officer in The Consul. Other stage credits include King Henry in Henry V with the Seattle Shakespeare Company's Wooden O and Enzo in The Art of Racing in the Rain with Book-It. He is also an actor for the screen (Grimm, Z Nation, The Device) and a film producer (Paralytic) with Mighty Tripod Productions.

Last updated: August 2017

David S. Hogan

FBI Agent 1

Cast

Creative Team

Jack Perla

Composer

At Seattle Opera in 2017/18: An American Dream

Composer (San Francisco, CA)
Composer and pianist Jack Perla has been commissioned by Los Angeles Opera, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Houston Grand Opera, Seattle Opera, and the Barlow Endowment for Music Composition. In addition to An American Dream, his recent work includes, Shalimar the Clown, an opera based on the novel by Salman Rushdie, for Opera Theater Saint Louis and Jonah and the Whale for Los Angeles Opera. He is also recipient of the Thelonious Monk Institute Jazz Composers Award. Perla remains active composing, performing, and recording jazz, chamber, and symphonic music. Enormous Changes, Jack’s third jazz recording, was released on Seattle-based Origin Records label in June 2015.

 

 

Jack Perla

Composer

Seattle Opera Debut

Jessica Murphy Moo

Librettist

At Seattle Opera in 2017/18: An American Dream

Librettist (Boston, MA)
Jessica Murphy Moo is a writer, editor, and teacher. An American Dream is her first libretto. Her fiction has appeared in The AtlanticImage, and Memorious. Her nonfiction has appeared in Poets & Writers Magazine and The Atlantic Online, among other publications. She has held teaching positions at Emerson College, Harvard University, Boston University, and Seattle Pacific University. She now teaches writing for the University of Washington’s Professional and Continuing Education program, and she is Seattle Opera’s communications editor. She was a 2016 fellow at Tapestry Opera’s Librettist Composer Laboratory Workshop.

 

Jessica Murphy Moo

Librettist

Seattle Opera Debut

Judith Yan

Conductor

At Seattle Opera in 2017/18: An American Dream

Conductor (Toronto, Canada)
Judith Yan is the Artistic Director of Guelph Symphony Orchestra (GSO) and Principal Conductor of Opera on the Avalon (OOTA). She has been Staff Conductor for San Francisco Opera, Canadian Opera Company, and National Ballet of Canada.  As a guest, she has conducted opera, ballet, and symphony in Australia, Canada, Germany, Hong Kong, Korea, Italy, New Zealand, Poland, and USA.  Her 2017/18 season includes Dead Man Walking and Tosca at OOTA, Hansel and Gretel and The Rite of Spring for GSO, Swan Lake at Korean National Ballet, Don Quixote and Dracula for West Australian Ballet, and Le Corsaire for Hong Kong Ballet.

Judith Yan

Conductor

Seattle Opera Debut