An Unexpected Partnership: Des Moines Metro Opera Opens 45th Anniversary Season at Camp Dodge with Midwest Premiere of David T. Little’s Rock-Infused Opera Soldier Songs in Coordination with Iowa National Guard
Des Moines, IA — Des Moines Metro Opera, in an historic partnership with the Iowa National Guard and Camp Dodge, will open its 45th Anniversary Season with a production of David T. Little’s poignant and chilling one-act opera Soldier Songs in late January 2017. As part of Des Moines Metro Opera’s 2nd Stages Series, an initiative committed to creating collaborative performances designed to engage audiences in creative spaces, Soldier Songs will be fully produced in the Freedom Center at Camp Dodge with performances on January 27 and 28 at 7:30pm and on January 29 at 2:00pm. Each performance will be immediately followed by a curated talk-back session featuring reflections from Iowa combat veterans. “We greatly appreciate the Des Moines Metro Opera exploring the deeply personal experiences of American servicemembers and bringing forward the unique emotional, physical, mental and spiritual issues engendered by combat operations,” said Colonel Greg Hapgood, Iowa National Guard Public Affairs Officer.
Created in 2006 by American composer David T. Little, Soldier Songs is a multimedia event that combines elements of theater, opera, rock-infused concert music and videography to explore the loss of innocence and the difficulty of expressing the truth of war. The libretto is adapted from recorded interviews with veterans of five different American wars, some of them Little’s own family members. The opera centers on the abstract Soldier and follows his path through three different stages of his life: as a boy playing with his plastic soldiers and guns, heavily influenced by media images of heroes and war; as a young adult soldier, both thrilled and terrified by the grim reality of modern combat; and finally, as the older veteran returned home, struggling to confront his memories and consumed by grief when two marines come to tell him that his son has been killed in combat. The opera asks us to examine the real human costs of warfare and the part we all play as audience and media consumers in creating the culture of war and the emotionally-devastating cult of the real American hero. “Artistic performances have their greatest impact when they are offered in close partnership with the community,” said Michael Egel, General and Artistic Director of Des Moines Metro Opera. “The opportunity to offer this important contemporary work on-site at Camp Dodge underscores the power of the work and the role that live performances can play in building understanding around critical issues.”
Soldier Songs stars baritone Michael Mayes who made his Company debut in 2010 as Count Almaviva in The Marriage of Figaro and was last seen in 2012 as the titular character in Don Giovanni. Des Moines Metro Opera Music Director and Principal Conductor David Neely will conduct the performance, which features an amplified seven-person orchestra. Soldier Songs will be directed by Kristine McIntyre who made her Company debut as the director of La Bohème in 2011 and most recently directed Manon in 2016. This production will be designed by Adam Crinson and will incorporate actual military transport vehicles supplied by Camp Dodge.
Tickets for Soldiers Songs are $40 and can be purchased online at desmoinesmetroopera.org/soldiersongs or by calling our box office at 515-961-6221. As with all 2nd Stages Series performances in alternative venues, seating capacity is limited. The opera will be performed in English. Photo IDs (a driver’s license is an accepted form of identification) will be required for admittance to the Camp. The final preview rehearsal on January 26 will be offered as a free event to all Iowa veterans of combat. The composer, David T. Little, will be featured in a to-be-announced special event and will also be attending the opening night performance.
Soldier Songs contains strong language, simulated gunshots, explosions and other combat-related sounds. Events related to Soldiers Songs received funding from OPERA America’s Opera Fund.
If you would like more information about this event, please contact Scott Arens at 515-961-6221 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Michael Mayes, Soldier
With a “powerful” voice and an “arresting stage presence”, baritone Michael Mayes is known for his consummate portrayals of iconic characters in the operatic repertoire. Originally from Cut and Shoot, Texas, Michael has performed with opera companies across the United States including Cincinnati Opera, Palm Beach Opera, Kentucky Opera, Des Moines Metro Opera, Arizona Opera, Central City Opera, Michigan Opera Theater, and Fort Worth Opera.
The 2015-2016 season included his debut with Dallas Opera and San Diego Opera in the world premiere of Jake Heggie’s Great Scott, Jack Rance in Opera Omaha’s La Fanciulla del West, Eisenstein in Die Fledermaus with Baltimore Concert Opera, Manfred in Heggie’s Out of the Darkness with Music of Remembrance, Scarpia in Tosca with Central City Opera, and another Dead Man Walking with New Orleans Opera. In the 2016-2017 season, Mr. Mayes will make his debut with Washington National Opera in his celebrated role of Joseph De Rocher in Dead Man Walking in addition taking his De Rocher to Pensacola Opera and appearing with Boston Lyric Opera as Escamillo in Carmen, Nashville Opera as Older Thompson in Glory Denied, singing Il Re in Ariodante at National Sawdust in Brooklyn, and returning to Dallas Opera as Doug in Everest. Future seasons include debuts with Virginia Opera and the Teatro Real in Madrid.
David Neely, conductor
In 2012 Opera News wrote, “The happy news of David Neely’s appointment as Des Moines Metro Opera’s first-ever music director portends some exciting operatic growth at Des Moines in years to come.” Since then, Neely has continued to elevate the Company’s musical profile with acclaimed performances of a wide range of repertoire. Recent conducting highlights at DMMO include Elektra, Peter Grimes, Dead Man Walking, Three Decembers, La Fanciulla del West, Falstaff, Jenůfa, Manon as well as appearing as collaborative pianist with baritone David Adam Moore in a multi-media performance of Winterreise for DMMO’s 2nd Stages Series.
Internationally, Neely has appeared as a conductor with the Bochumer Symphoniker, Dortmunder Philharmoniker, the Symphonieorchester Vorarlberg, and numerous European opera houses including Bonn, Halle, Dortmund, and St. Gallen. In the United States, he has appeared at the Indiana University’s renowned Jacobs School of Music for concerts and opera productions (most recently Florencia en el Amazonas), Roosevelt University’s Chicago College of Performing Arts, and Sarasota Opera, where he has led numerous productions including their American Classics series of 20th-century operas. He has collaborated with such soloists as Joshua Roman, Bella Hristova, Benjamin Beilman, Rainer Honeck, Nicholas Daniels, Ricardo Morales, Ben Lulich, and Phillippe Cuper.
In addition, Neely heads Orchestral Activities at the University of Kansas, where he has brought distinction and visibility to the orchestra program since joining the faculty in 2007. The KU Symphony Orchestra has performed with prominent international soloists, has frequently appeared at the renowned Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City, and in the summer of 2011, performed as resident orchestra of the Eutiner Festspiele in Eutin, Germany. Neely fosters a strong community-university relationship in Lawrence, KS, by partnering in and directing engagement activities, including an annual family-oriented Halloween concert and free Kansas Sinfonietta summer concerts. He established the collaboration between the KU Symphony Orchestra and Lawrence Arts Center on annual staged performances of Peter and the Wolf for young audiences, and has partnered with Reach Out Kansas Inc. on free statewide performances for underserved communities. He has also played an active role in Lawrence’s Sister City program.
Upcoming appearances include the Portland Symphony Orchestra and Sarasota Opera, as well as David T. Little’s Soldier Songs, Britten’s Billy Budd, and Puccini’s Turandot with DMMO.
He holds a B.M. in Piano Performance and an M.M. in Orchestral Conducting from Indiana University, where his teachers were Zadel Skolovky and Leonard Hokanson (piano), and Thomas Baldner and Bryan Balkwill (conducting). He received post-graduate study in orchestral conducting with Gerhard Samuel at the College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati.
Kristine McIntyre, director
Stage director Kristine McIntyre has directed more than 70 operas across the U.S. with a focus on new, contemporary and American works. Productions include Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking (Des Moines Metro Opera, Madison Opera), Jonathan Dove’s Flight (Pittsburgh Opera, Austin Lyric Opera), the world premier of Kirke Mechem’s John Brown (Lyric Opera of Kansas City), Jake Heggie’s The End of the Affair (Lyric Opera of Kansas City) and Three Decembers (Des Moines Metro Opera), Robert Aldridge’s Elmer Gantry (Tulsa Opera), Carlisle Floyd’s Of Mice and Men (Utah Opera, Austin Opera, Tulsa Opera), new productions of Street Scene, The Tender Land and Lee Hoiby’s Bon Appétit and the world premier of The Canticle of the Black Madonna (Newmark Theater, Portland).
Other recent opera directing credits include Manon, Jenůfa, Peter Grimes, Eugene Onegin and La Bohème (Des Moines Metro Opera), Otello, La Cenerentola, Tosca, Le nozze di Figaro, Il ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria and La clemenza di Tito (Pittsburgh Opera), The Pearl Fishers (Utah Opera), Lucia di Lammermoor and Madama Butterfly (Arizona Opera), Don Giovanni, Cosi fan tutte, Norma, and The Turn of the Screw (Lyric Opera of Kansas City), Il ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria, Lucia di Lammermoor and La traviata (Portland Opera), The Tales of Hoffmann, Un Ballo in Maschera and Cosi fan tutte (Madison Opera), Don Giovanni, Cavalleria Rusticana/I Pagliacci, Carmen and Werther (Kentucky Opera), La Bohème (New Orleans Opera), Don Giovanni and Rigoletto (Tulsa Opera), Lucia di Lammermoor (Anchorage Opera), Tancredi (Opera Boston), and Verdi’s Un giorno di regno (Wolftrap Opera). Upcoming projects include a new production of Manon (Des Moines Metro Opera), The Tales of Hoffmann (Madison Opera), Madama Butterfly (Kentucky Opera), the world premiere of Louis Karchin’s Jane Eyre at the Center for Contemporary Opera in New York, a revival of her film-noir Don Giovanni (Utah Opera), and the exciting new production of Jake Heggie’s Moby Dick designed by Erhard Rom.
Des Moines Metro Opera is a nationally-recognized, progressive opera company that has taken its place among America’s leading opera festivals. Founded in 1973, it is the state’s largest performing arts organization, annually producing over 100 performances in the metro area and around the state and region. Last year 77,000 people experienced Des Moines Metro Opera programming via mainstage performances, educational programs and statewide television and radio broadcasts. In 2013 Opera News magazine called Des Moines Metro Opera an “Essential Unexpected U.S. Summer Opera Venue.”
The Company’s Summer Festival Season runs from May through July of each year during which three operas are performed in repertory for 15 mainstage performances. The Summer Festival Season takes place in the 466-seat Pote Theater at the Blank Performing Arts Center in Indianola, Iowa. Each season the Company welcomes audiences from nearly 40 states, most Iowa counties and several foreign countries. The 2017 Summer Festival Season runs from June 23 through July 16, 2017. Featured will be Puccini’s Turandot, Sondheim’s A Little Night Music and Britten’s Billy Budd.
The Company develops audiences of all ages through five educational programs. The OPERA Iowa Educational Touring Troupe and the Apprentice Artist Program for singers are two of the long-standing, flagship programs of the education division. Des Moines Metro Opera serves more than 40,000 people each year across the state through its educational programming.
Des Moines Metro Opera serves its city as a cultural leader through unique community programming and collaborations. The 2nd Stages Series creates collaborative performances designed to engage audiences in creative spaces. This season’s 2nd Stages Series productions will feature David T. Little’s Soldier Songs at Camp Dodge and Piazzolla’s María de Buenos Aires at the Temple Theatre.