By Tiffany Ujiiye
Seattle Opera’s main stage season kicks off this August with new productions from the Belonging(s) Project, performing at both Bainbridge Island and the McCaw Hill theaters.
In 2010, the Belonging(s) Project began in Puget Sound as a community storytelling with an online repository of videos to make a digital quilt. Each story explores a central question as Sue Elliot, director of education at the Seattle
Opera, asks, “If you had to leave home today, what’s the one thing that you’d want to take with you?”
This year, the company will premiere an hourlong opera set in Puget Sound during World War II titled “An American Dream,” a story inspired by two women: Mary Matsuda Gruenewald and Marianne Weltmann. Gruenewald, a Japanese American author who was incarcerated as a young girl, and Weltmann, a Jewish-German opera singer whose family escaped Hitler’s Europe, encounter each other, unfolding a telling story of friendship and colliding histories.
Their struggles to maintain a sense of place in the Pacific Northwest during a period of historical turmoil aim to inspire discussion within the audience.
Cast for “An American Dream” includes Nina Yoshida Nelson as Hiroko Kobayashi. In addition to her debut this year with the Seattle Opera, Nelson will preform with the Southwest Florida Symphony as Alto Soloist in Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 9.”
Other cast members include Morgan Smith as Jim, D’Ana Lombard as Eva, Adam Lau as Makoto Kobayashi and Hae Ji Chang as Setsuko. Conductor Judith Yan and composer Jack Perla will make their Seattle Opera debut this year as well.
Audio excerpts and a synopsis can be found on Seattle Opera’s website. Along with “An American Dream,” the company’s season will include a dramatic work from Nabucco (Verdi) and Mary Stuart (Donizetti). Both pieces have never before been seen in Seattle and are part of the Belonging(s) Project.
Other new-to-Seattle productions are “The Marriage of Figaro,” “The Pearl Fishers” and “The Flying Dutchman,” which will debut as main-stage performances.
The Seattle Opera will also launch the Flight project, a multiyear series of programs and events for family audiences and in-school performances, alongside the Belonging(s) Project.