Soldier Songs

by David T. Little
with film by Bill Morrison


April 6, 2018   7:30pm
April 8, 2018   2:00pm

Festival Concert Hall, NDSU

Fargo-Moorhead Premiere!

Gripping & realistic, Solder Songs  traces the shift in perception of war  from the age of 6 to the age of 66.  Follow the lead character through the  phases of life from boy to man:  playing violent video games as a boy, enlisting & serving in the military, dealing with the real-life horrors of war & later in life dealing with the real-life horrors of war - becoming a father whose worst fears are realized with the news of the death of his son.  Adapted from interviews with veterans of five wars, this opera theater experience explores the ideas versus the realities of the Soldier, the exploration of and exploitation of innocence along with the "seemingly impossible" of expressing the truth of war.  

This production has adult themes - not suggested for young children

Cast & Creative Team

Christopher Burchett’s rich, no-holds-barred voice and committed stagecraft have earned him a place on the stages of opera companies throughout the United States and Europe including New York City Opera, Santa Fe Opera, Boston Lyric Opera, the Estates Theatre, The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Fort Worth Opera, Palm Beach Opera, Beth Morrison Projects, Virginia Opera, Prototype Festival, Opera Omaha, Opera Saratoga, Eugene Opera, Indianapolis Opera, Kentucky Opera, Glimmerglass Opera and Opera Theatre of St. Louis. Most recently, Opera News described Christopher as a “fearlessly vulnerable” performer “who gave an unflinchingly, heroically human performance that will linger long in the memory.”

Composer  /  David T. Little

ComposerDavid T. Little

David T. Little (composer) is “one of the most imaginative young composers” on the scene, a “young radical” (The New Yorker), with “a knack for overturning musical conventions” (The New York Times). His operas JFK (Royce Vavrek, librettist; Fort Worth Opera / Opéra de Montréal / American Lyric Theater), Dog Days (Royce Vavrek, librettist; Peak Performances / Beth Morrison Projects), and Soldier Songs (Prototype Festival) have been widely acclaimed, “prov[ing] beyond any doubt that opera has both a relevant present and a bright future” (The New York Times).

Recent works include The Conjured Life (Cabrillo Festival Orchestra / Cristian Măcelaru), Ghostlight—ritual for six players (eighth blackbird / The Kennedy Center), AGENCY (Kronos Quartet), dress in magic amulets, dark, from My feet (The Crossing / ICE), CHARM (Baltimore Symphony / Marin Alsop), Hellhound (Maya Beiser), Haunt of Last Nightfall (Third Coast Percussion). Little is currently working on a new opera commissioned by the MET Opera / Lincoln Center Theater new works program with Royce Vavrek, and the music-theatre work Artaud in the Black Lodge with Outrider legend Anne Waldman (Beth Morrison Projects). His music has been heard at LA Philharmonic, Carnegie Hall, LA Opera, the Park Avenue Armory, Holland Festival, the Bang On A Can Marathon, BAM Next Wave and elsewhere. Educated at University of Michigan and Princeton, Little is co-founder of the annual New Music Bake Sale, has served as Executive Director of MATA, and serves on the Composition Faculty at Mannes-The New School. From 2014-2017, he served as Composer-in-Residence with Opera Philadelphia and Music-Theatre Group. The founding artistic director of the ensemble Newspeak, his music can be heard on New Amsterdam, Innova, and VIA Records labels. In fall 2016, VIA Records released the world-premiere recording of Dog Days, starring the original cast and Newspeak led by conductor Alan Pierson; the CD was listed as one of NPR’s Best Recordings of 2016. He received a 2017 Fellowship from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts.

David T. Little is published by Boosey & Hawkes.

Film Work  / Bill Morrison

Film Work / Bill Morrison

Bill Morrison‘s films often combine rare archival material set to contemporary music. His work was recently honored with a mid-career retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, NY, from October 2014 – March 2015. Morrison is a Guggenheim fellow and has received the Alpert Award for the Arts, an NEA Creativity Grant, Creative Capital, and a fellowship from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts. His theatrical projection design has been recognized with two Bessie awards and an Obie Award. “Decasia” (67 min, 2002), a collaboration with the composer Michael Gordon, was selected to the US Library of Congress’ 2013 National Film Registry. “Spark of Being” (68 min, 2010) a collaboration with trumpeter/composer Dave Douglas, won the Los Angeles Film Critics Award for Best Independent Film of 2011. “The Miners’ Hymns” (52 min, 2011). a collaboration with the composer Jóhann Jóhannsson, was described as one of “the best and most beautiful films of the year” by the Huffington Post. “The Great Flood” (78 min, 2013), a collaboration with guitarist/composer Bill Frisell, won the Smithsonian Ingenuity Award of 2014 for historical scholarship. Morrison has collaborated with some of the most influential composers and performers of our time, including John Adams, Maya Beiser, Gavin Bryars, Dave Douglas, Richard Einhorn, Erik Friedlander, Bill Frisell, Philip Glass, Michael Gordon, Michael Harrison, Ted Hearne, Vijay Iyer, Jóhann Jóhannsson, Kronos Quartet, David Lang, David T. Little, Michael Montes, Steve Reich, Todd Reynolds, Aleksandra Vrebalov, and Julia Wolfe, among many others. His work is distributed by Icarus Films in North America, and by the British Film Institute in the UK.

Director   / Ashley Tata

Ashley Tata (director) is a New York City-based director of new opera and multi-media performances. Recently: a semi-staged performance of excerpts from the new opera Turing by Eamonn Farrell and William Antoniou (National Sawdust, NYC); Cut Piece for Pants Suit — after Yoko Ono’s Cut Piece which was co-created/directed with JoAnne Akalaitis (Madison Square Park, NYC); the multi-media pop-up series “Out of Bounds” (PROTOTYPE Festival, NYC); Kate Soper’s Ipsa Dixit (EMPAC; Dixon Place, NYC) -- hailed by Alex Ross in the New Yorker as a "21st century masterpiece"; Molière's Don Juan at the Fisher Center at Bard College (NY); a multi-media concert staging of David T. Little’s opera Soldier Songs with video by filmmaker Bill Morrison (Atlas Theatre, DC and The Holland Festival, Amsterdam, Beth Morrison Projects); the premieres of George Lam’s Dolly Parton-fan inspired opera Heartbreak Express (Rhymes with Opera, NYC); thingNY’s environmental opera This Takes Place Close By (Knockdown Center, NYC); Mojiao Wang's opera Encounter (National Centre for the Performing Arts, Beijing Modern Music Festival, Beijing, China); Lainie Fefferman’s oratorio Here I Am featuring Newspeak Ensemble and Va Vocals (Roulette, NYC); and Morningside Opera Company’s A Weimar Flute, incorporating texts of Weimar-era writers with Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte (Housing Works Bookstore, NYC). As an assistant and associate director she regularly works with Beth Morrison Projects and with directors Robert Woodruff, Jay Scheib, Daniel Fish and JoAnne Akalaitis in such venues as the Brooklyn Academy of Music, The Lincoln Center Theater Festival, Spoleto Festival, USA, Fort Worth Opera, LAOpera at REDCAT and the Park Avenue Armory. She is an associate with Michael Counts on many of his live performance experiences and the Creative Director of Immersive Escape Productions where she devises environmental, multi-platform, immersive escape rooms and experiences including Paradiso: The Memory Room and The Path of Beatrice. Her work has taken her to Kiev, Ukraine for the International Bulgakov Theater Festival, to Poland to train at the Centre for Theatre Practices Gardzienice, to Prague to create a piece of environmental theater at the 2011 Quadrennial and to Berlin to conduct research for her MFA thesis production of Bertolt Brecht’s The Good Person of Szechwan. She is the recipient of the Lotos Foundation's Emerging Artist Award in Arts and Sciences and the winner of the 2017 Robert L. B. Tobin Director/Designer grant for her team's design of Tom Cipullo’s Glory Denied. She received her BA in Theater Studies from Marymount Manhattan College, graduating Summa Cum Laude, and her MFA in Directing from Columbia University where she studied with Anne Bogart and Brian Kulick. In April her production of David T. Little’s Soldier Songs will be staged at Fargo Moorehead Opera.

Todd Reynolds (conductor) is known as one of the founding fathers of the hybrid-musician movement and one of the most active and versatile proponents of what he calls ‘present music’. For years the violinist of choice for Steve Reich, Meredith Monk, Bang on a Can, and a founder of the string quartet known as Ethel, his compositional and performance style is a hybrid of old and new technology, multi-disciplinary aesthetic and pan-genre composition and improvisation. His double-disc debut album Outerborough was released in 2011 on the Innova label.

Producer  / Beth Morrison Projects

Producer / Beth Morrison Projects


Founded in 2006 to support the work of living composers and their multi-media collaborators, Beth Morrison Projects (producer) encourages risk-taking, creating a structure for new work that is unique to the artist and allows them to feel safe to experiment and push boundaries. 

Noted as “the edge of innovation" (Opera News), Beth Morrison Projects is a “contemporary opera mastermind” (Los Angeles Times) and “its own genre" (Opera News). Projects have been performed in numerous premier venues around the world including Brooklyn Academy of Music, Disney Hall, The Barbican, Lincoln Center, The Walker Art Center, The Beijing Music Festival, The Holland Festival, and more.   Since 2014, BMP has been a bi-coastal company based in New York and Los Angeles.  Los Angeles partners include the LA Opera, LA Phil, Center Theater Group, Ford Theatres, wild UP, and RVCC.  Beth Morrison co-founded the PROTOTYPE Festival in New York City in 2013, which showcases seven boundary pushing contemporary opera-theatre and music-theatre projects over ten days each January. The New Yorker recently wrote that the festival is “Essential to the evolution of American Opera,” and the New York Times called the festival “Bracingly innovative… a point of reference.”


Ensemble   / NEWSPEAK

Ensemble / NEWSPEAK

NEWSPEAK (ensemble) has been featured as a part of the Tune-In Festival with Eighth Blackbird at the Park Avenue Armory, the Ecstatic Music Festival In NYC, on New Sounds Live, and at the International Festival of Arts and Ideas.  They have headlined on the MATA Festival, shared bills with The Fiery Furnaces as part of Wordless Music, and performed as part of John Zorn’s Full Force festival.  Most recently, they made their international debut at the 2014 Holland Festival.  Newspeak released their first CD with New Amsterdam Records in November 2010, and recently released their follow-up disc, Soldier Songs, on Innova.

“You could call this punk classical,” Lucid Culture says of the New York-based amplified octet, Newspeak.  “Fearlessly aware…(and) resolutely defiant.”   “If more groups played music with such life, power, and passion,” says Sequenza21 “nobody would think this music is “dead.” New Sounds host and tastemaker John Schafer has called them “important players on the new music scene here in New York” and Danny Johnson, of the New Haven Advocate has proclaimed: “these players are so great! …first-rate.”  Newspeak’s debut album, sweet light crude “could easily keep a whole nation full of chamber rock lovers well lubricated for a whole year.” (Arcane Candy)   It “is a provocative recording that’s also fun and satisfying to listen to, and it may be as seminal for the next generation of composers as Icebreaker’s debut CD was for this one.” (George Grella, The Big City). They “inhabit a world in which all genres are on an equal playing field. And that’s the way they like it.” (The Silent Ballet)

Named after the thought-limiting language in George Orwell’s 1984, Newspeak is a powerhouse ensemble that blends the anthems of Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Mogwai with the frenetic and politicized aggression of Black Sabbath and the Dead Kennedys.  Fusing the music-for-use directness of Louis Andriessen and Frederic Rzewski, the ornate complexity of King Crimson and the Mahavishnu Orchestra, and the emotional depths of Elliot Smith and The Cure, they create a mysterious, nuanced, and compelling sound.