THE LONG WALK – WORLD PREMIERE
Music by Jeremy Howard Beck
Libretto by Stephanie Fleischmann
Based on the book The Long Walk: A Story of War and the Life that Follows by Brian Castner
Commissioned by American Lyric Theater
The Long Walk is a new opera by composer Jeremy Howard Beck and librettist Stephanie Fleischmann, which is based on Brian Castner’s critically acclaimed book of the same name. The opera is a deeply personal exploration of a soldier’s return from Iraq where he served as an officer in an Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit and his battle with what he calls “the Crazy” as he tries to reintegrate into his family life upon returning from the war. Opera Saratoga is honored to present the world premiere of The Long Walk in partnership with American Lyric Theater. Internationally renowned theater and opera director David Schweizer makes his Opera Saratoga debut, with celebrated American conductor Steven Osgood on the podium. Grammy Award winning Baritone Daniel Belcher returns to Opera Saratoga to create the role of Brian, alongside mezzo-soprano Heather Johnson, who makes her company debut as his wife Jessie. The cast also includes the company debuts of sopranos Caroline Worra and Donita Volkwijn, tenors David Blalock and Javier Abreu, and bass baritone Justin Hopkins.
Lead Funding for the world premiere of The Long Walk has been provided by The MAP Fund, supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Aaron Copland Fund for Music, and New Music USA. To follow updates about The Long Walk, visit https://www.newmusicusa.org/projects/the-long-walk-world-premiere-3/.
Additional support has been provided by OPERA America / The Opera Fund, to provide education and audience enrichment programs throughout the community leading up to the world premiere.
The Spa Little Theater in Spa State Park
21 Roosevelt Drive
Saratoga Springs, NY 12866
Conductor: Steven Osgood
Director: David Schweizer
Scenic Designer: Mimi Lien
Costume Designer: Nancy Leary
Lighting Designer: Jeff Bruckerhoff
ABOUT THE LONG WALK - AN INTERVIEW WITH THE COMPOSER AND LIBRETTIST
The Long Walk, is a new opera by composer Jeremy Howard Beck and librettist Stephanie Fleischmann, based on Brian Castner’s critically acclaimed book of the same name, which describes a soldier’s return fro Iraq where he served as an officer in an Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit and his battle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as he tries to reintegrate himself back into his family life upon his return from the war.
“From the very first page of Brian Castner’s The Long Walk, the book’s directness and immediacy grabs you by the throat and pulls you into its harrowing world,” explain Jeremy and Stephanie. “We were moved by the candor of Brian’s voice, the intense camaraderie of the EOD unit, the off-kilter sense of alienation at home, and so much more. The devastating suspense inherent in Brian’s story held us in its thrall. We are thrilled that Brian has granted us the rights to adapt his story, that American Lyric Theater commissioned this opera from us, and that Opera Saratoga will be producing the world premiere production.
"A soldier comes home and must adapt to a world that is forever changed. This is a timeless story, though the context continues to change. From Homer’s The Odyssey to Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage to Auden’s poetry of shell shock to Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried to the current wave of writing coming out right now, it is not just timeless; it is urgent, necessary, wholly of the present moment. Those who have survived their tours in Iraq and Afghanistan have come home, or they are coming home, or they will be coming home one day in the near or distant future, at which point there will almost certainly be another war to contend with somewhere else.
“Over twenty percent of those returning will carry with them the marks of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD),” explain Jeremy and Stephanie. “We as a country are in the process of absorbing a huge influx of veterans who will have no choice but to grapple with their combat experiences for years to come. The relentlessness of the statistics—and the epidemic of suicide that accompanies them—is sobering, to say the least.
“Brian’s book makes the paradox of the return and the near impossibility of a smooth reintegration come alive for us. He transports us there—to Iraq—and back, to a home world laced with an agonizing disquiet and charged with shattered and shattering memories. He conjures the inanities of the mundane civilian world—the airport, with all its fast food chains and carpeting, the sense of shock and dislocation—in vivid detail. We feel for his endless searching, the need to quiet the Crazy. We are moved by how truthful Brian is with himself and with us: his journey from a man with a “naïve” love of the idea of battle to a man whose love for all that once gave him joy has evaporated; the almost childlike bliss he discovers in the art of defusing bombs; his enthusiasm for the science and pragmatism and craft and in-depth knowledge of this specialty.
“Journalist Christopher Hayes writes, “We have a society that on the one hand has become comfortable with war and on the other hand wants to distance itself from it as much as possible, to outsource it to contractors, to robots and to the 2.3 million volunteer men and women who have been asked to serve for longer durations than at any time in recent history.” With the exception of September 11 and the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, none of the major military conflicts of the last hundred years have taken place on American soil. These days, war is “out there,” long ago and far away, performed by and inflicted on other people. We are unprecedentedly insulated from it, and the ever-increasing hardship and losses are borne by fewer and fewer volunteers and their families. But we both feel The Long Walk brings it all beautifully and terrifyingly close to home.”
JEREMY HOWARD BECK - COMPOSER
Jeremy Howard Beck (b. 1985 Huntington, NY) is an award-winning composer whose adventurous, eclectic and emotionally immediate music—recently described as "sparse and haunting" by NPR's Weekend Edition, and hailed by the American Composers Forum for its "thrilling aural twists and bends"—has been performed throughout the country: at the Opera America National Conference, the Bang on a Can Marathon, InsightALT, Eastern Trombone Workshop, International Trombone Festival, the Norfolk and Bang on a Can Summer Festivals, and throughout New York City. His works for trombone quartet have received a 2012 JFund/ACF grant (In Wait) and a 2011 ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Award (Awakening). Recent commissions include the evening-length opera The Long Walk, with a libretto by Stephanie Fleischmann based on the memoir of the same name by Iraq veteran Brian Castner (American Lyric Theater); ROAR (Gaudete Brass Quintet); In Wait (The Guidonian Hand) and Annunciation (Choral Chameleon). Jeremy is a Resident Artist with American Lyric Theater and a Composer-in-Residence with the Guidonian Hand trombone quartet, whose recording of Awakening is now available on iTunes, Amazon, and bandcamp. He studied with John Corigliano and Christopher Rouse at The Juilliard School and with Mark Adamo and Deniz Hughes at NYU.
STEPHANIE FLEISCHMANN - LIBRETTIST
Stephanie Fleischmann is a librettist and playwright whose texts serve as blueprints for intricate three-dimensional sonic and visual worlds. Libretti include: The Property, music by Wlad Marhulets (Chicago Lyric’s Lyric Unlimited); Red Fly/Blue Bottle, music by Christina Campanella (Latitude 14: HERE; Noorderzon Festival, NL; EMPAC); Far Sea Pharisee, music by Miki Navazio (NEA Opera/Music-Theater); TINDER, (L14: Exit Festival, Paris), Olga Neuwirth’s “ecstaloop” & “The Cartographer’s Song” (Basel, Berlin, Graz, Stockholm, Aldeburgh); The Hotel Carter, music by Jenny Giering (Frederic Loewe Award); What the Moon Saw, music by Sxip Shirey, Brendan Connelly, Daniel Corral (Son of Semele); The Secret Lives of Coats, music by Christina Campanella (Red Eye, Anna Sosenko Assist Trust, Playlabs), lyrics/dramaturgy for The Greeks and The Americans (Juilliard, with Brian Mertes, music by Phil Roebuck and Jim White).
Selected plays: Tally Ho (Round House Studio, London; Synchronicity), Omonia-3 (Athens), The World Speed Carnival (Soho Rep), Eloise & Ray (New Georges). Additional venues: Asolo Rep, Roadworks, Integrity, Prelude, Knitting Factory, Hollywood Bowl. Collaborations: Chekhov at Lake Lucille; The Russian Doctor (with Andy Dawson; Mass MoCA, Birmingham Rep, U.K.). Published by PLAY, A JOURNAL OF PLAYS, playscripts.com.
Stephanie teaches playwriting at Skidmore College, and holds an MFA from Brooklyn College. She is currently a 2014–25 Howard Foundation Fellow in Playwriting, and Resident Artist at American Lyric Theater. Grants include: OPERA America, NYSCA Individual Artist Commission, Greenwall Foundation, NY State Music Fund, 2 NYFA fellowships, Whitfield Cook Award. Residencies: New Dramatists, MacDowell, HARP, Playwrights Center Core Writer, Hedgebrook, Mabou Mines/Suite, Chocolate Factory. Tennessee Williams Fellow in Playwriting, Sewanee.
BRIAN CASTNER, AUTHOR (whose memoir, The Long Walk, inspired the opera)
Brian Castner is the author of “The Long Walk,” an Amazon Best Book of 2012 and Chautauqua Scientific & Literary Circle selection for 2013. Previously, he served as an Explosive Ordnance Disposal officer in the US Air Force from 1999 to 2007, deploying to Iraq to command bomb disposal units in Balad and Kirkuk in 2005 and 2006. After leaving the active military, he became a consultant and contractor, training Army and Marine Corps units prior to their tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. His writing has appeared in a number of national and regional publications, including Wired, The New York Times, The Daily Beast, The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, Foreign Policy, Publisher’s Weekly, and Garry Trudeau’s The Sandbox anthology. Brian lives outside of Buffalo, New York with his wife and four sons.