Utah Opera Highlights Post-War Veterans' Journey With Jeremy Howard Beck and Stephanie Fleischmann's "The Long Walk" Chamber Opera Featured

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (March 20, 2017) – On March 31 and April 1 at7:30 PM “The Long Walk” will make its Western U.S. premiere at the Jeanné Wagner Theater in the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center. It is the story of one man’s experience and based on the book “The Long Walk: A Story of War and the Life that Follows” by Brian Castner. Commissionedby American Lyric Theater and premiered in 2015 by Utah Opera’s co-producer Opera Saratoga, this work is timely and moving. Tickets, priced at $45, and $20 for students, are available for purchase through www.utahopera.org or by calling (801) 533-6683. 

Mr. Caster’s memoir has drawn widespread attention and critical praise as one of the most important war books of its time. Says Mr. Castner of his book: “This is a story of two journeys: an outward struggle of surviving the urban combat of modern war in order to return home at all costs, and the inward journey to find the new person that emerges after undertaking such a task.”

The opera is centered on an American soldier as he copes with Blast Induced Traumatic Brain Injury after he returns home from duty in Iraq. This opera offers a visceral look at the realities of modern warfare and the unseen battles that rage inside our hearts.

Stage Director David Schweizer will bring to life “The Long Walk” in his Utah Opera debut at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center alongside conductor Steven Osgood, who will conduct the cast, musicians of the Utah Symphony, and Choristers of The Madeleine Choir School in his Utah Opera debut. This production will feature the debuts of mezzo-soprano Megan Marino in the role of Jessie, Martin Bakari in the role of Ricky, Matthew Scollin in the role of Jeff and Donita Volkwijn in the roles of Iraqi Woman/Perneatha/Yogini.

Daniel Belcher returns to Utah Opera after “The Merry Widow” in the lead role of Brian, which he performed for the world premiere at Opera Saratoga in July 2015. Choristers of The Madeleine Choir School Alex Yannelli, Henry Poppe, and Anthony Villanueva who were most recently at Utah Opera for “Carmen,” return as Sam, Martin, and Virgil, the children of Jessie and Brian. Utah Opera Resident Artist Christian Sanders is featured in the role of Castleman and Abigail Rethwisch, who most recently sang the title role in Utah Opera’s March 2017 production of “Lucia di Lammermoor,” takes the stage in the roles of Aunt Sarah/Iraqi Woman/Shrink. Costumes for the production are designed by Nancy Leary in her Utah Opera debut.

The performance will last approximately 2 hours and 20 minutes, with one intermission.

Author Brian Castner, composer Jeremy Howard Beck, and librettist Stephanie Fleischmann will be in Utah during the week leading up to “The Long Walk” for presentations, book readings, and signings. Check out http://usuoeducation.org/index.php/adults/festivalfor more information.

RELATED EVENTS
Utah Symphony | Utah Opera's education and community outreach department facilitates an online "learn before you go" series prior to each opera. Online learning materials about “The Long Walk” have been prepared Carol Anderson, principal coach for the Utah Symphony and Opera. Check them out at www.utahopera.org/onlinelearning.

Arts in Service to the Military Cultural Festival USUO’s annual cultural festival, sponsored by the John and Marcia Price family Foundation since 2005, highlights a special theme each year that provides a new focus to connect our community through music and more. This year’s cultural festival shines a spotlight on veterans and active military, focusing on ways our arts community can appreciate and support them. Building on this theme, many local arts organizations will present events on military themes and provide access for active and separated military personnel to a variety of arts performances. We will also draw attention to veterans’ active art-making as a means of self-expression. You can view activities and events with our community collaborators at the following link: www.usuo.org/festival.

“The Long Walk” Composer Presentation: Tuesday March 28, 10:45 AM-12 PM, Dumke Recital Hall, Gardner Hall, University of Utah: Jeremy Howard Beck will discuss the music of the opera with an opera literature seminar. Public is invited to join the class.

Hivemind Book Discussion: “The Long Walk”: Tuesday March 28, 7 PM, Art Access (230 S 500 W, #125): Readers of Brian Castner’s memoir “The Long Walk” will discuss the book with its author. See Hivemind Book Club of SL on Facebook.

Guest Writers Series: “The Long Walk”: Wednesday, March 29, 12 PM-1 PM, Jewel Box, Carolyn Tanner Irish Humanities Building, University of Utah: Side-by-side readings of prose and lyricized text for the opera by writer Brian Castner and librettist Stephanie Fleischmann. Co-sponsored with U of U Creative Writing & SLC Arts Council.

US Veterans Invited to Opera Dress Rehearsal: Wednesday March 29, 7 PM, Jeanné Wagner Theater (138 W 300 S). Veterans have the opportunity to attend Utah Opera's final dress rehearsal of "The Long Walk” at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center at no cost. Visit VetTix.org for tickets

Book Reading and Signing: Thursday, March 30, 6:30 PM, Weller Book Works (607 Trolley Square): Author Brian Castner will read from his memoir “The Long Walk” and sign copies.

PROGRAM
Utah Opera Presents
Jeremy Howard Beck and Stephanie Fleishmann’s “The Long Walk”
The Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center, 138 W Broadway, Salt Lake City, UT 84101
March 31 & April 1 | 7:30 PM
 

“The Long Walk”
Based on the Book: “The Long Walk: A Story of War and the Life that Follows”, by Brian Castner
Libretto by Stephanie Fleischmann

SPONSORS
Utah Opera Season Sponsor: George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation
Opera Artistic Director Sponsor: Emma Eccles Jones Foundation
Arts in Service to the Military Cultural Festival Sponsor: John and Marcia Price FamilyFoundation
Production Sponsor: Ted and Carol Newlin
Performance Sponsor: Brian and Janice Ruggles
Performance Sponsor: Judy Brady and Drew W. Browning     
Props Sponsor: Employees Community Fund of Boeing
Floral Season Sponsor: Every Blooming Thing
Cast Party Sponsor: The New Yorker

CAST
Brian…....................................................................................Daniel Belcher
Jessie.....................................................................................Megan Marino
Martin.....................................................................................Henry Poppe
Virgil........................................................................................Anthony Villanueva
Sam.........................................................................................Alex Yannelli
Castleman.............................................................................Christian Sanders*
Ricky.......................................................................................Martin Bakari
Jeff…………………………………………..............................................Matthew Scollin
Iraqi Woman/Aunt Sarah/Shrink………..............................Abigail Rethwisch*
Iraqi Woman/Perneatha/Yogini………….............................Donita Volkwijn
Child Understudy…………………………......................................Rueben Reed

ARTISTIC STAFF
Conductor…………………………….…...........................................Steven Osgood
Stage Director……………………………........................................David Schweizer
Costume Design...………………………......................................Nancy Leary
Set Design..…………………….....................................................Mimi Lien
Lighting Design………………………….........................................Nicholas Cavallaro
Wigs/Make-up Design……………….........................................Daniel Jacob Hill
Assistant Conductor…………………….......................................Michael Spassov
Children’s Musical Preparation…………................................Melanie Malinka
Principal Coach…………………………..........................................Carol Anderson
Stage Manager……………………………........................................Jayme Castle
Assistant Stage Manager………………....................................Ash Crystal
Assistant Director……………………….........................................Emilio Casillas
Rehearsal Pianist/Supertitle Musician…...........................Timothy Accurso*

*Current Utah Opera Resident Artist.

SYNOPSIS
Act I
A figure runs along the Niagara River in Buffalo, New York. It is Brian Castner, a former Explosive Ordnance Disposal Captain in the U.S. Air Force. As he runs, he is haunted by memories of Iraq. Brian’s wife, Jessie, recalls her grandmother’s prophecy: even if her husband returns from combat, the war will no doubt kill him at home. At dinner with his family, Brian is besieged by another memory of Iraq, imagining that soldiers are invading the Castner family kitchen. Brian’s son Martin asks his father to read him a bedtime story. Later that night, Brian wakes in terror, and Jessie urges him to get help. The next morning, Brian struggles to get the kids ready for school. Longing to escape the challenges of the everyday, Brian flashes back to his Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) training prior to his service in Iraq, and the fellowship he found in, “the Brotherhood of the Crab.” That afternoon, at his son’s seventh birthday party, Jessie urges Brian to try to be present for the sake of the children. Brian struggles to connect with what’s happening all around him, and to remember minute details of his family’s past, and fails. He retreats to the garage, where he attempts to fortify the family minivan in order to keep his boys safe on their way to school. His son Martin finds him there. Brian takes off, attempting to outrun “the Crazy,” but is assaulted by a barrage of memories of Iraq, culminating in the moment he came close to shooting a cluster of keening Iraqi women. When the memories fade away, he finds himself back at home, staring into the mirror. He mounts the stairs and then sits, rifle in hand, guarding his sleeping boys.

Act II
Jessie appeals to Brian to seek help, giving him an ultimatum of sorts. Brian descends into another horrific memory of Iraq, one which persuaded him to go home. Brian visits a shrink at the VA, who gives him a diagnosis. Later, at the funeral of a fallen EOD man, Jessie mourns the loss of the man she married. Back at home, the boys sing about their father. The shrink asks Brian: Why is the war still in your house? At a yoga class for veterans, Brian, faced with yet another Iraq memory, manages to remain in the present. Some time later, Jessie and the boys are playing before Brian’s return from a trip. He panics at the airport and phones Jessie, who talks him down. Brian asks her to remind him of details of the family life he’s forgotten. They connect over their shared past. The shrink tells Brian he’s making progress. Brian accompanies his son to the Mite Hockey championship. Seeing his son suiting up, he breaks down, flashing back to the memory of one of his “brothers” suiting up to take the Long Walk. He then has another flashback: The men in their humvee are returning from a mission before dawn, when a lone pigeon lands on the humvee. Back in Buffalo, Brian runs along the Niagara River, through memories of war and present moments of peace, past his EOD brothers, towards his wife and children, and on, into the future.

GUEST ARTIST BIOS

Daniel Belcher (Missouri)
Brian
Most recently at Utah Opera, “The Merry Widow”
Recently:
“Silent Night,” Michigan Opera Theatre;
“Dead Man Walking,”Lyric Opera of Kansas City;
“The Scarlet Letter” (world premiere), Opera Colorado
Upcoming:
“The House Without a Christmas Tree” (world premiere), Houston Grand Opera;
“Elizabeth Cree” (world premiere), Opera Philadelphia

Megan Marino (Colorado)
Jessie
Utah Opera Debut
Recently:
“Rusalka,”Metropolitan Opera;
“Il barbiere di Siviglia,”Virginia Opera;
“Hänsel und Gretel,”Lyric Opera of Kansas City
Upcoming:
“Così fan tutte,”Central City Opera;
“Thaïs,”Metropolitan Opera

Alec Yannelli (Utah)
Sam
Most recently at Utah Opera, “Carmen”
Recently:
Chorister of The Madeleine Choir School;
“Noye’s Fludde,”The Cathedral of the Madeleine
“Tosca,” Utah Opera
Upcoming:
International Performance Tour to London & Paris with The Madeleine Choir School: St. Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Cathedral, King’s College Cambridge, Notre-Dame, Paris

Henry Poppe (Utah)
Martin
Most recently at Utah Opera, “Carmen”
Recently:
Chorister of The Madeleine Choir School;
“Noye’s Fludde,” The Cathedral of the Madeleine;
“Tosca,” Utah Opera
Upcoming:
International Performance Tour to London & Paris with The Madeleine Choir School: St. Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Cathedral, King’s College Cambridge, Notre Dame Paris

Anthony Villanueva (Utah)
Virgil
Most Recently at Utah Opera, “Carmen”
Recently:
Chorister of The Madeleine Choir School;
“Noye’s Fludde,”The Cathedral of the Madeleine
Upcoming;
International Performance Tour to London & Paris with The Madeleine Choir School, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Cathedral, King’s College Cambridge, Notre-Dame Paris

Christian Sanders (Colorado)
Castleman
Most Recently at Utah Opera, “Lucia di Lammermoor”
Current Utah Opera Resident Artist
Recently:
“Manon,”Des Moines Metro Opera;
“Aïda,”“The Merry Widow,” “The Marriage of Figaro,” “Carmen,” “Man of La Mancha,” Utah Opera
Upcoming:
“Billy Budd,” “A Little Night Music,” Des Moines Metro Opera

Martin Bakari (Ohio)
Ricky
Utah Opera Debut
Recently:
“The Source,”Los Angeles Opera and Beth Morrison Projects;
“Charlie Parker’s Yardbird,”Madison Opera;
“Le nozze di Figaro,” “Il postino,” “The Witches of Venice,” Opera Saratoga
Upcoming:
“The Summer King,”Pittsburgh Opera;
“The Difficulty of Crossing a Field” and “The Little Match Girl Passion,” Portland Opera

Matthew Scollin (Pennsylvania)
Jeff
Utah Opera Debut
Recently:
“Candide,”Opéra National de Bordeaux;
“Salomé,”Pittsburgh Opera;
“Falstaff,”Des Moines Metro Opera
Upcoming:
“Die Zauberflöte,”Madison Opera;
“Ariadne auf Naxos,”Austin Lyric Opera

Abigail Rethwisch (Iowa)
Aunt Sarah/Iraqi Woman/Shrink
Most Recently at Utah Opera, “Lucia di Lammermoor”
Recently:
“Carmen,”Utah Opera;
“La traviata,”Chautauqua Opera;
“Sweeney Todd,”Tri-Cities Opera
Upcoming:
“Die Fledermaus,”The Santa Fe Opera, Utah Opera

Donita Volwijn (South Africa)
Pernratha/Iraqi Woman/Yogini
Utah Opera Debut
Recently:
“The Long Walk,”American Lyric Theatre, Opera Saratoga;
“Porgy and Bess,”Belgrade Philharmonic;
“Carmen,”Tulsa Opera;
“La bohème,”San Francisco Opera, Opera Memphis, DiCapo Opera Theatre;
“Le Villi,”Dicapo Opera Theatre

ARTISTIC STAFF

Steve Osgood (New York)
Conductor
Utah Opera Debut
Recently:
“Dead Man Walking,”Lyric Opera of Kansas City;
“Flight,”The Juilliard School;
“Breaking the Waves” (world premiere), Opera Philadelphia
Upcoming:
“L’Orfeo” (Monteverdi/Respighi – US Stage Premiere), “Don Pasquale”, “Hydrogen Jukebox”, Chautauqua Opera

David Schweizer (New York)
Director
Utah Opera Debut
Recently:
“The Love Potion,”Boston Lyric Opera;
“Giovanna d’Arco,”Chicago Opera Theater;
“The Mines of Sulphur,”New York City Opera;
“The Greater Good,”Glimmerglass Festival
Upcoming:
“Elizabeth Cree,”Opera Philadelphia;
“The Nefarious, Immoral but Highly Profitable Enterprise of Mr. Burke and Mr. Hare,”Boston Lyric Opera

Nancy Leary (Massachusetts)
Costume Design
Utah Opera Debut
Recently:
“The Long Walk” (world premiere), Opera Saratoga;
“La bohème,” “The Love Potion,” “The Magic Flute,” “Clemency,” Boston Lyric Opera;
“Ariadne auf Naxos,” Virginia Opera;
“The Messiah,”Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra;
Upcoming:
“Vanessa,” Mannes Opera

Mimi Lien (New York)
Set Design
Utah Opera Debut
Recently:
“Natasha,” “Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812,” Imperial Theater (Broadway);
“A 24 Decade History of Popular Music by Taylor Mac,”St. Ann’s Warehouse;
Upcoming:
“Pelleas et Melisande,” Cleveland Orchestra;
“4 Nights of Dream,” by Moto Osada, Japan Society/Tokyo Bunka Kaikan

Daniel Jacob Hill (Utah)
Wig and Make-up Design
Most Recently at Utah Opera, “Lucia di Lammermoor”
Recently:
“Man of La Mancha,” “Carmen,” “The Marriage of Figaro,” Utah Opera;
“Madame Butterfly,” Ballet West;
Upcoming:
“Don Giovanni,” Utah Opera

Michael Spassov (Canada)
Assistant Conductor
Most Recently at Utah Opera, “Lucia di Lammermoor”
Recently:
“Capriccio,” “La fanciulla del West,” The Santa Fe Opera;
“Roméo et Juliette,” Atlanta Opera
Upcoming:
“Don Giovanni,” Utah Opera

About Utah Opera
Utah Opera, established by Glade Peterson in 1978, has been part of the community for more nearly 40 years and engages Utah residents through inspiring operatic performances. The opera company presents four annual productions at the historic Janet Quinney Lawson Capitol Theatre. Utah Opera operates a full production studio where productions are rehearsed and costumes, props and set pieces are designed, made, rented out and stored. The opera currently has 19 full sets and costumes for 50 full productions in its inventory. Utah Opera also offers a Resident Artist Program, a nationally recognized young artist training program for professional singers and pianists who perform for more than 70,000 students each year through the organization’s education and outreach activities. For more information, visit www.utahopera.org.

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Season Sponsor for Utah Symphony | Utah Opera is the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation.

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