'Canticle' Explores Veterans' Experiences Through Opera

OPB | Sept. 1, 2014 5 a.m. | Updated: Sept. 2, 2014 11:08 a.m. | Portland

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This weekend in Portland, a new opera premieres. “The Canticle of the Black Madonna” tackles the challenges facing veterans returned from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Composer Ethan Gans-Morse

Composer Ethan Gans-Morse

courtesy of Anima Mundi Productions

Composer Ethan Gans-Morse is a University of Oregon graduate whose work focuses on contemporary themes, like the opera’s returning soldier, Adam, and his wife, Mara.

“We spent over a year getting to know this fictional characters,” Gans-Morse said. “We got to know them intimately.”

The story tracks Adam’s return to the Gulf Coast, deeply disturbed and witness to the devastation of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

His collaborator is librettist Tiziana DellaRovere. She prepared for the project by reading up on mental health
research and talking to vets.

Librettist Tiziana DellaRovere drew on the Catholic iconography of the Black Madonna as a central spiritual theme of the show.

Librettist Tiziana DellaRovere drew on the Catholic iconography of the Black Madonna as a central spiritual theme of the show.

Courtesy of Anima Mundo Productions

“My own father was a veteran of two wars,” she said. “In the course of writing the libretto, I realized my father had PTSD.”

The team took the production to Eugene for workshop performances last year.

The Portland dates will be followed by facilitated workshops for veterans. Some former service members were also cast for small parts in the show.

 

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