PROTOTYPE's New York Premiere of Soldier Songs is an evening-length multimedia event from composer David T. Little presented as part of PACE Presents at the Michael Schimmel Center. Soldier Songs combines elements of theater, opera, rock-infused concert music, and animation to explore the perceptions versus the realities of a soldier, the exploration of loss and exploitation of innocence, and the difficulty of expressing the truth of war. Though music can be easily co-opted to serve a political or ideological message, it can equally be a vehicle for reflection, engagement, and emotional connection, as is seen in this gripping opera-theatre work.
The libretto, created by the composer, was adapted from recorded interviews with veterans of 5 wars. Soldier Songs traces the shift in perception of war from the age of 6 to the age of 66. We follow the abstract character through the three phases of life: Youth (playing war games), Warrior (time served in the military), and Elder (aged, wise, reflective). It is a chilling and realistic view of our media-crazed, war machine culture, and of the nature of power in war. Each of the eleven songs explores a different aspect of the experience, ranging from rage, to fear, to joy, to grief. Multi-media is employed less as a collection of recorded evidence and more as a critique of the media’s ability to both glamorize and falsify the truth of combat. Soldier Songs asks the tough questions and tells the tough stories through its poignant libretto, driving music, and surprising visual counterpoint. The tension between the visual and aural experience of our production works to dispel the numbness felt by those lucky enough to only experience war through the comfort of our living rooms.
Co-Presented by PACE Presents at the Michael Schimmel Center
Music and Libretto by David T. Little
Directed by Yuval Sharon
Conducted by Todd Reynolds
Starring Christopher Burchett and Zac Ballard
Featuring the ensemble Newspeak
Scenic and Costume Design by Chisato Uno
Animation Design by Corey Michael Smithson
Lighting Design by Christopher Kuhl
Associate Production Design by Brian Ireland
Running Time: 60 Minutes
Post-Performance Discussion will follow the January 17th show
Soldier Songs is funded in part by
The Soldier Songs veteran photography gallery is hosted by:
Veterans Photo Project - The Veterans Photo Project, is a first-of-its-kind exhibition featuring the photographic expressions of participants in The Doe Fund’s Veterans Program. Best known for the “men in blue” of its Ready, Willing & Able paid transitional work program, The Doe Fund creates and operates initiatives that help break cycles of homelessness, criminal recidivism, chronic unemployment, and substance abuse. Among the newest of these is The Doe Fund’s two-year-old Veterans Program, which empowers more than 130 former servicemen each day to build productive and dignified lives.
David T. Little
David T. Little's potently dramatic music draws upon his experience as a rock drummer, and fuses classical and popular idioms to powerful effect. Often undertaking political and existential themes, his music has been described by The New York Times as “dramatically wild…rustling, raunchy and eclectic,” showing “real imagination.” New Yorker critic Alex Ross declared himself “completely gripped,” noting that "every bad-ass new-music ensemble in the city will want to play him.” Little’s first full-length opera, Dog Days, premiered this fall. Upcoming projects include new works for the London Sinfonietta, Kronos Quartet, Maya Beiser, Nadia Sirota, and others. His music has been performed internationally, heard at the Tanglewood, Aspen, and Cabrillo Festivals, and the Bang on a Can Marathon. Advocates include eighth blackbird, the London Sinfonietta, the Brooklyn Philharmonic, Alarm Will Sound, and Marin Alsop, with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. He recently received his doctorate from Princeton University, is a member of the HERE Artist Residency Program (HARP), and serves as the Director of Composition and Coordinator of New Music at Shenandoah Conservatory. His music is published by Project Schott New York.
Named a "Face to Watch in 2012" by the Los Angeles Times, Yuval Sharon has been creating an unconventional body of work that explores the boundaries of music, visual art, and concert theater. His productions have been described as "dizzyingly spectacular" (New York Magazine), "magical" (The Village Voice), and "ingenious" (San Francisco Chronicle). Yuval directed a landmark production of John Cage Song Books at the San Francisco Symphony and Carnegie Hall with Joan La Barbara, Meredith Monk, and Jessye Norman. He also founded and serves as Artistic Director of The Industry, an experimental opera company in Los Angeles, where his inaugural production of Anne LeBaron's hyperopera Crescent City was hailed by the Los Angeles Times as "groundbreaking" and "reshaping LA opera." Yuval was Project Director for four years of New York City Opera’s VOX, an annual workshop of new American opera, which became the most important crucible for new opera in the country under his direction. He has also worked with international houses like the San Francisco Opera, the Mariinsky Theater, the Bregenzer Festspiele in Austria, and the Komische Oper Berlin, as well as experimental venues like Le Poisson Rouge, Berkeley Opera, and the Deitch Projects. He was assistant director to Achim Freyer on the Los Angeles Ring Cycle and Associate Director of the world premiere of Stockhausen’s Mittwoch aus Licht with Graham Vick.
Christopher Burchett has worked with New York City Opera, Santa Fe Opera, Palm Beach Opera, Opera Orchestra of New York, Opera Omaha, Eugene Opera, Indianapolis Opera, Kentucky Opera, Utah Festival Opera, Glimmerglass and Opera Theatre of St. Louis. In 2012, Christopher sang the role of Blazes in Boston Lyric Opera’s production of The Lighthouse and Chou En-Lai in Nixon in China with Eugene Opera. Christopher then sang Carmina Burana with the York Symphony Orchestra, traveled to Quebec, Canada for a series of Baroque concerts with L'Harmonie des Saisons, returned to Omaha Symphony for Faure's Requiem, sang Dvorak's Stabat Mater with the Bel Canto Chorus of Milwaukee and made his Kennedy Center debut in a Beth Morrison Projects' world premiere production of Paola Prestini’s opera Oceanic Verses. In the summer he sang the role of Bruno Mahler in Kern and Hammerstein's Music in the Air with Music By the Lake and in the fall made his Virginia Opera debut as Dr. Falke in their production of Die Fledermaus. Future seasons include a return engagement with the York Symphony to sing Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and appearances with the BBC Orchestra in London and Fort Worth Opera. Other world premieres for Christopher include the title role in Vincent by Bernard Rands with Indiana University, Baritone Soloist in Paul Moravec’s Blizzard Voices with Opera Omaha, Orsen in Edwin Penhorwood’s Too Many Sopranos with Cedar Rapids Opera Theatre, M. Carré-Lamadon in Stephen Hartke's The Greater Good (available on Naxos records) with Glimmerglass Opera and Justin in Anthony Davis’ Wakonda’s Dream with Opera Omaha.
NEWSPEAK, named after the thought-limiting language in George Orwell’s 1984, is a powerhouse ensemble that became an early standout within New York’s "indie-classical" scene. The current stellar line-up--Caleb Burhans (composer/violin), David T. Little (composer/drums), Mellissa Hughes (voice), Eileen Mack (clarinet), Taylor Levine (guitar), Brian Snow (cello), James Johnston (piano), and Peter Wise (percussion)--began performing together in 2008, and released their first CD with New Amsterdam Records in November 2010, to critical acclaim. NEWSPEAK has been featured as part of the Tune-In Festival with eighth blackbird at the Park Avenue Armory, the Ecstatic Music Festival in NYC, on New Sounds Live, and at the International Festival of Arts and Ideas. They have headlined on the MATA Festival, shared bills with The Fiery Furnaces as part of Wordless Music, and performed as part of John Zorn’s Full Force festival. Actively committed to the music of its time Newspeak has commissioned and premiered work by David T. Little, Caleb Burhans, Corey Dargel, Oscar Bettison, Ted Hearne, Judd Greenstein, Missy Mazzoli and many others. "You could call this punk classical," Lucid Culture wrote, "fearlessly aware…(and) resolutely defiant." New Sounds host John Schafer called them "important players on the new music scene here in New York."
Soldier Song's Conductor Todd Reynolds is also the violinist of choice for many of new music's most venerable composers, including Steve Reich, Meredith Monk, and the Bang on a Can collective. Founder of the string group, ETHEL, and recognized as a founding father of the hybrid-musician movement which has virtually erased genre and style as boundaries, his new double CD, Outerborough, (Innova) features Reynolds as composer, performer and producer with two complementary 'sides' which reflect seeming innumerable aspects of a far-reaching musical trajectory. The "inSide" features his own music, and the "outSide" features pieces commissioned and written specifically for the record by a host of New York notables, featuring David T. Little's 'and the sky was still there', which chronicles the story of soldier Amber Ferenz (whose voice is present in Soldier Songs).
Called "A Daredevil Musician" by The New Yorker for his relentless forays into freshly inked music while performing, composing and conducting, he is a fixture on the New York scene for 25 years. He has conducted the music of Steve Reich both in performance and on the Nonesuch recording of The Hindenburg, and was music director and conductor of Giovanni Sollima's Ellis Island, which received its premiere at Palermo, Sicily's Teatro Massimo in 2003. He is currently Music Director and Composer for Toni Dove's Lucid Possession, debuting at Roulette in April, 2013.
I believe that it is an artist’s duty to ask questions; in particular, questions that can be difficult to hear, and often impossible to answer. The pursuit of this over the last ten years has drawn me away from writing traditional concert music, toward opera and music theatre. More than any other musical genres, these allow for equal and concurrent exploration of the epic and the ordinary. This parallels my own musical aesthetic, which combines elements of so-called high and low culture. All of these elements came together for the first time in Soldier Songs, my first opera, and first major step in the direction I've followed since.
– David T. Little
"David T. Little pursues musical activism through superior firepower...to say that he is having a banner season is something of an understatement."
— Time Out New York
"David T. Little is one of the most promising stars on the 21st century opera scene."
— WQXR, NYC Classical Radio
"PROTOTYPE is at the forefront of the movement, showcasing these works for new audiences and presenters alike — and David Little is one of its most pioneering, consistently groundbreaking voices."
— Exit Strata
"David T. Little's opera Soldier Songs should be required viewing for anybody who has not seen active service."
— Opera News - April 2013