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Seattle Opera.

An American Dream

Sept. 7-17, 2017

Overview

A project by our Education & Community Engagement Department
Music by Jack Perla

Libretto by Jessica Murphy Moo

Provocative drama with local connections. Treasured possessions become symbols of home in this Seattle Opera commission, inspired by true stories from our region’s history. Set during World War II, this opera explores the lives of two Puget Sound women: a Japanese American forced to leave her home and a German Jewish immigrant preoccupied by those she left behind. An American Dream is accompanied by a 15-piece orchestra.

We are excited to partner with historic Washington Hall for this special presentation. The iconic venue has been a fixture in Seattle’s multi-cultural performing arts scene for decades including performances by greats Billie Holliday and Ella Fitzgerald. The intimate venue, once home to On The Boards, completed an extensive renovation and is once again opening its doors to innovative cultural offerings as a safe and welcoming place to gather create, entertain, and celebrate.

In English | at Washington Hall
Performance Time: One hour and 25 minutes with no intermission.

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Synopsis

America, the 1940s

Winter 1942
A farmhouse on a Puget Sound island. 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, the Kobayashis, has heard that the FBI has been searching homes and taking away people of Japanese descent. The family burns their precious Japanese belongings and photographs of their family members in the hopes of avoiding arrest.

Eva waits outside as Jim, knowing he has the upper hand, tries to get the father, 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 has no choice but to sell the land to Jim. As the FBI agents take Makoto away, he promises to return for his teenage daughter, Setsuko.

Spring 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 Hinamatsuri doll hidden beneath a floorboard, Eva asks Jim about the previous owners. Jim tells her that they were “Japs,” sent to the “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 the war’s end.

May 1945
Jim and Eva hear an announcement on the radio of Germany’s surrender. Eva 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
When Eva reads Setsuko’s response, Jim 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, who 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. 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 as Setsuko faces her future.

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Cast

D'Ana Lombard

Eva Crowley

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 Crowley

Yeonji Lee

Setsuko

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

Soprano (Seoul, South Korea)
Yeonji Lee makes her Seattle Opera debut in the role of Setsuko Kobayashi. Previous credits include Cécile de Volanges, the leading role in The Dangerous Liaisons and Atalanta in Serse with Manhattan School of Music in New York, where she recently earned her Master’s and Bachelor's degrees. Her solo work includes the interactive performance installation Sonic Blossom by installation artist Lee Mingwei at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Yeonji Lee

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

Ao Li

Makoto Kobayashi

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

Bass-baritone (Dezhou, Shandong, China)
Ao Li makes his Seattle Opera debut with these performances of An American Dream. His roles at San Francisco Opera include Ascanio Petrucci in Lucrezia Borgia, Lorenzo in I Capuleti e i Montecchi, and The Indian Gardener / Ben Weatherstaff in the world premiere of The Secret Garden, among others. Other roles include Gremin in Eugene Onegin at the Seoul Arts Centre, Don Alfonso in Così fan tutte at Macau International Music Festival, and Figaro in The Marriage of Figaro and the title role of Don Pasquale at Beijing National Center for Performing Arts. In 2013, he won Plácido Domingo’s Operalia competition.

 

Ao Li

Makoto Kobayashi

Seattle Opera Debut

Ryan Bede

Jim Crowley

At Seattle Opera in 2018/19: Moralès, Carmen

Hometown: Tacoma, WA
Seattle Opera Debut: Second Priest, The Magic Flute (’17)
Previously at Seattle Opera: Fiorello, The Barber of Seville (’17); Jim Crowley, An American Dream (’17); Prince Yamadori, Madame Butterfly (’17)
Recently: Moralès/Le Dancaïre, Carmen (Tacoma Opera); Papageno, The Magic Flute (Opera Idaho); Bass soloist, Mozart Requiem (Sofia, Bulgaria)
Upcoming:  Baritone soloist, Duruflé’s Requiem and Ravel’s Don Quichotte a Dulcinée (Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo); Soloist, Mozart Masterworks concert (Everett Philharmonic)

Last updated: February 2018

Ryan Bede

Jim Crowley

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

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

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

Peter Kazaras

Director

At Seattle Opera in 2018/19: The Turn of the Screw

Hometown: New York, NY
Seattle Opera Directing Debut: Norma (’03)
Previously at Seattle Opera: An American Dream (’15 and ’17); The Consul (’15); Madame Butterfly (’12)
Recently: The Marriage of Figaro (Washington National Opera), La gazza ladra and An American Tragedy (Glimmerglass Festival)
Upcoming: Der Ring des Polykrates (Dallas Opera); The Barber of Seville (Washington National Opera)

Last updated: December 2017

Peter Kazaras

Director

Julia Hayes Welch

Set Design

At Seattle Opera in 2017/18: An American Dream

Scenic Design (Seattle, WA)
A freelance designer, Julia Hayes Welch’s recent credits include Alex and Aris (ACT Theatre); Grounded (Seattle Public Theatre); Barbecue, Bootycandy (Intiman); The Things Are Against Us (Washington Ensemble Theatre); Peter and the Starcatcher, Really Really (ArtsWest); Free Boy (5th Avenue Educational Tour); Twister Beach (Café Nordo); The Noteworthy Life of Howard Barnes (Village Theatre); Trojan Women (Civic Rep); and several productions with UW Drama.  Welch designed costumes for Trojan Women (Civic Rep) and for Bus Stop and Instructions to Survive a Fairy Tale (UW Drama).  Upcoming work includes Government Inspector with Seattle Shakespeare Company and Howl’s Moving Castle with Book-It Repertory Theatre. 

Julia Hayes Welch

Set Design

Seattle Opera Debut

Chelsea Cook

Costume Designer

At Seattle Opera in 2017/18: An American Dream

Costume Designer (Seattle, WA)
Chelsea Cook has been on staff at Seattle Repertory Theatre, Village Theatre, and the Intiman Theatre Festival.  Her work has been seen at Seattle Shakespeare Company, Book-It Repertory Theatre, Village Theatre, George Street Playhouse, ArtsEmerson, Second Stage Theatre, Café Nordo, ACT Theatre, Coeur d’Alene Summer Theatre, and more. Select favorite designs include Ernest Shackleton Loves Me (Off-Broadway Alliance Award, Second Stage Theatre); The Addams Family (Coeur d’Alene Summer Theatre); She’s Come Undone (Gregory Award Nomination, Book-It); What We Talk About When We Talk About Love (Book-It Repertory); Medea (Seattle Shakespeare Co.); and Pump Boys & Dinettes (Village Theatre). 

Chelsea Cook

Costume Designer

Seattle Opera Debut

Connie Yun

Lighting Designer

At Seattle Opera in 2017/18: An American Dream and Beatrice and Benedict
At Seattle Opera in 2018/19: The Turn of the Screw

Hometown: East Lansing, MI
Seattle Opera Debut: Die Fledermaus (’06)
Previously at Seattle Opera: An American Dream (’17 and ’15); As One (’16); Tosca (’15)
Recently: Così fan tutte; The Difficulty of Crossing a Field; The Match Girl Passion (Portland Opera)
Upcoming:La Cenerentola; Orfeo ed Eurydice (Portland Opera); Skylight (ACT Theatre)

Last updated: December 2017

Connie Yun

Lighting Designer

Creative Team

Orchestra

Violins
John Kim
Emilie Choi

Viola
Betty Agent

Cello
Page Smith

Bass
Todd Larsen

Flute
Wendy Wilhelmi

Oboe
Dan Williams

Clarinet
Jennifer Nelson

Bassoon
Mona Butler

Horns
Jeffrey Snedeker
Danielle Lemieux

Trumpet
Gabriel Palmer

Percussion
Matthew Kocmieroski

Timpani
Gunnar Folsom

Harp
Catherine Case

Piano
Li-Tan Hsu

 

Rodger Burnett, Orchestra Contractor

Orchestra

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Production Sponsors

The Wallace Foundation
True-Brown Foundation

Made possible by an OPERA America Innovation Grant, supported by the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation.

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Washington State Arts Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Main Photo © Dorothea Lange. War Relocation Authority 1942-1945 | Photos © Philip Newton