Immigration. Racism. Religion. Some themes are ever present in our society. In this episode, Key Change host Andrea Fellows Fineberg puts the time machine through its paces, capturing the artistic evolution that brought one of the first Opera for All Voices commissions to the stage...sort of.
With wrenching plot twists worthy of La Traviata and more false endings than a Beethoven symphony, this is the story of Hometown to the World created by composer Laura Kaminsky and librettist Kimberly Reed. By extension, it is a story of our time.
The opera’s artistic journey, which began in 2016, encompasses years of rewrites, workshops, name changes, and character demises - and that doesn’t even factor in the open-ended setbacks of COVID-19. But to truly understand Hometown to the World, listeners must travel back in time even further to 2008. That year, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers raided a kosher meat processing plant in the small but thriving multicultural farming community of Postville, Iowa, deporting approximately 25% of the town’s residents.
This is not your grandmother’s canonical opera plot. And yet…Hometown to the World reverberates with the same tension and drama, terror and beauty. At its heart, Hometown… is a story about people learning to live together despite their differences. “People really do, for the most part, want to understand across difference and make a better world for all,” Laura says. “I have to believe that.”
Immigration stories are American stories, as rich and varied as the human experience itself. Stage Director Kristine McIntyre shares her own connection, as the granddaughter of Italian immigrants. “I believe really firmly that my job, as an opera director, is to direct the music in the sense of finding what the story is inherent in what we are hearing as an audience member.”
Dramaturg Cori Ellison points out that both sides of the operatic equation - new work and standard repertory pieces - can thrive alongside each other, expanding perceptions of what art is and how we interact with each other.
Andrea steers the episode full-circle, returning listeners to 2021 and our current immigration, racism, and religion issues. Where does an opera about a decade-old ICE raid written at the onset of the most contentious political era in US history go after a global pandemic? Stay tuned.
Season 1, Episode 6 “Hometown to the World: Discovering Postville” - Interview with Laura Kaminsky and Kimberly Reed
Season 2, Episode 9 “America is Impossible Without Us” - Revisiting the work during the San Francisco Opera workshop
Thank you to Bright Shiny Things for permission to share "Carne barata" from Hometown to the World, performed by Blythe Gaissert, in this episode.
Key Change listeners receive 21% off the forthcoming release of Blythe's debut album “Home” with promo code: SFOPERA21 (all caps!)
Preorder here: https://www.brightshiny.ninja/home
Key Change is a production of The Santa Fe Opera in collaboration with Opera for All Voices.
Hosted by Andrea Fellows Fineberg
Produced and edited by Andrea Klunder at The Creative Impostor Studios
Audio Engineer: Kabby at Kabby Sound Studios in Santa Fe
Theme music by Rene Orth with Corrie Stallings, mezzo-soprano, and Joe Becktell, cello.
Cover art by David Tousley
This podcast is made possible due to the generous funding from the Melville Hankins Family Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and an OPERA America Innovation Grant, supported by the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation.
To learn more about Opera for All Voices, visit us at SantaFeOpera.org.