My husband, our older child and I attended Seattle Opera’s “An American Dream,” which was commissioned by the Seattle Opera as a “community engagement project” and premiered on August 21. We attended the second performance on August 23. Due to the horrible traffic my husband and I almost missed the opera.
“An American Dream” based on local experiences of WWII is a fictionalized story of a teenage Japanese American woman Setsuko whose family gets forced relocation from Bainbridge Island, and a young Jewish woman Eva married to an American veteran Jim who is anxious to call her parents from Europe. This chamber opera starts with Eva and Jim hoping to get a new farm house which belongs to Setsuko’s family. Jim is anxious to get the house at a fraction of its value due to the imminent relocation order for all people of Japanese descent. Setsuko hides her favorite doll representing the empress from the Hinamatsuri (a.k.a. Girls/Plum Festival) decorative doll set though she was told by her father to throw away everything that is connected to Japan and Japanese culture.
During the war, these two women’s lives are tangentially connected through the empress doll that Eva keeps and a letter from Germany that Setsuko keeps informing the deaths of Eva’s parents. And when the war ends the women finally meet and become somewhat united by their shared sadness caused by war.
I found the opera very interesting and a little unnerving. The atonal and unmelodious music was appropriate to express the helplessness felt by innocent people victimized by the behaviors of the ruling classes of societies, as well as the menacing atmosphere of wartime totalitarian governmental practices.
“Dissonance is the truth about harmony.” – Theodor Adorno