At Seattle Opera August 2015

Music by
Jack Perla

Libretto by
Jessica Murphy Moo

World Premiere | In English with English Captions | Marion Oliver McCaw Hall

Long Story Short:
Though we come from different places, no one escapes the pain of loss, the beauty of love.

Who’s Who?
is a German Jew who has fled the Nazis and moved to the Pacific Northwest.

Jim is an American veteran and Eva’s husband.

Setsuko Kobayashi is a Japanese-American girl living in Washington with her parents:

Papa, whose name is Makoto Kobayashi, is a nisei (born in the U.S).

Mama, whose name is Hiroko Kobayashi, emigrated to the U.S. from Japan.

Where & When?
An island in Puget Sound in the early 1940s

What’s Going On?
A Japanese American family burns precious belongings from Japan in an attempt to avoid arrest during World War II. Young Setsuko manages to hide her beloved doll before her family is forced out of their home. A new couple moves in: Jim, a U.S. veteran, and Eva, a Jewish immigrant preoccupied by her family’s situation in Germany. When Eva finds the doll, she discovers the truth—both about Setsuko’s family and her own.

Hae Ji Chang sings "None can escape" from An American Dream

The Belonging(s) Project
An American Dream is a new kind of opera—one whose story comes not from myth, or fiction, or current events, but 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? Why is that object, that memory, or that connection to your past so important?” Dozens of responses were filmed and posted to a digital quilt, which you can explore at

Seattle Opera then commissioned librettist Jessica Murphy Moo and composer Jack Perla to weave threads from this digital quilt into a new opera. The World War II experiences of two Seattle women, one Japanese-American and the other German-American, inspired the fictional tale of two families in An American Dream. Moo returned for additional interviews with the two women and immersed herself in the period.

Incoming General Director Aidan Lang, who joined Seattle Opera in 2014, was delighted by the work that had been done on An American Dream. “The workshop process revealed an unexpected resonance with one of the key themes of Nabucco, which we were already planning to present,” said Lang. “So we jumped at the opportunity to present the two works in parallel. In attending both operas, our audiences will inevitably have an even richer human experience than they would by seeing each piece in isolation.”

Jack Perla and Jessica Murphy Moo
Brandon Patoc, photo

D'Ana Lombard sings Eva's aria from An American Dream

Listening to An American Dream
Known for cross-fertilizing classical music with world music and jazz, Jack Perla has a strongly contemporary musical voice. His operas, written in a post-Britten, post-Bernstein idiom, find appropriate musical material for the drama, whether it concerns Indian immigrants to Texas (reflected in a mix of sitar, harmonium, and tabla with piano, violin, cello), or ex-lovers at a San Francisco bus stop (who dip into French cabaret, tango, blues, and more chromatic music) or teenage basketball players (with the sound of dribbling in the percussion). In 2015, Perla will premiere his new full-length work based on Salman Rushdie’s Shalimar the Clown, for Opera Theater St. Louis, as well as An American Dream for Seattle Opera. Other recent opera projects include Jonah and the Whale, for Los Angeles Opera, the comic opera Love/Hate, which premiered April 2012 in a co-production with the Opera Center of San Francisco Opera and ODCTheater, and for Houston Grand Opera, two works for their multi-year East + West project.

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