Ted Hearne BAM

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lennygoran
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Ted Hearne BAM

Post by lennygoran » Tue Feb 21, 2017 7:55 pm

I hadn't even realized BAM did this opera-never heard of Ted Hearne. Regards, Len


A Chelsea Manning-WikiLeaks Opera, Seen in a New Light

By ZACHARY WOOLFE FEB. 21, 2017


When you make art about current events, there’s a catch: Events change.

“The Source,” Ted Hearne’s slippery, stunning opera about Chelsea Manning and WikiLeaks, had its premiere at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 2014. The year before, Ms. Manning had been sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking secret material on the Iraq war and other American military and diplomatic activities. Many on the left viewed WikiLeaks with wary sympathy for publishing her revelations.

Since then, of course, WikiLeaks has become a liberal pariah for publishing hacked emails belonging to Hillary Clinton’s political advisers. And Ms. Manning, who transitioned from male to female in prison, will be freed in May since her sentence was commuted by President Obama just before he left office.

But as its subject matter has continued to evolve, “The Source,” some minor musical tweaks aside, has remained the same. How will it come across now? Jagging between chamber-rock outbursts and haunting Auto-Tuned voices, the opera has never been about scoring easy political points. Its ambiguous collage libretto, by Mark Doten, meditates on both Ms. Manning’s agonizing private messages about her gender dysphoria and quotations from the war logs she leaked; it never weighs in explicitly about the legitimacy of those disclosures.

Even so, it will be heard differently in the age of Trump. A six-performance run opens at San Francisco Opera on Friday, after a staging in Los Angeles last fall. Mr. Hearne spoke by telephone recently about the changing circumstances surrounding the piece. Here are edited excerpts from the conversation.

We’re living in a world very different than when “The Source” opened in 2014. What’s changed, as far as you’re concerned?


The questions I’ve been getting from the San Francisco media are different than the questions I got in 2014. It’s a lefty town, but among the interviewers, there’s a sense that Chelsea Manning got off, that it’s unfair, that it was unjust she didn’t serve what I think is this completely unjust sentence of 35 years for a victimless crime. The suggestion is “you’re obligated to tell both sides of the story,” and that’s very reductive to me. And I wasn’t getting those questions in New York and L.A.

Was that because there was more support for WikiLeaks among a left-leaning audience three years ago?

I don’t know if there was a broad support for WikiLeaks in 2014 in Brooklyn. But Chelsea Manning as a person was sort of forgotten then. That was the height of everyone talking about [Edward] Snowden. People talking about “The Source” would always bring up Snowden.

When we did it at L.A. Opera, that was three weeks before the election, and WikiLeaks was totally persona non grata with Democrats, of course. But the piece seemed to even make more sense. Because it’s not about WikiLeaks in a simple way. I’m interested to see what it’s like in San Francisco, because her sentence has been commuted. Manning is a much more famous person now, among both liberals and conservatives. Her divisiveness has just gone up.

But I didn’t change the text to reflect any change in current events. It’s not about that. The piece was about my interaction with these topics — the Iraq war logs, Chelsea Manning — at the time I wrote it. With any work, it’s this conversation between the circumstances it was created in and circumstances of the time and place it’s being seen. That conversation makes it meaningful or not.

Why did you write it?

It took such a long time to write this piece. I was initially interested in it before Chelsea Manning was a person anyone knew. I was interested in WikiLeaks, F.O.I. [Freedom of Information] activism, sampling, the digitalization of music. There was a New Yorker profile on Julian Assange in 2010, so I was interested in that.

Gradually, Chelsea as an individual and her struggle with her identity started to be much more interesting. And I’m glad about that. If it was a piece that was just about Julian Assange, it would be so tiresome.


What does this piece contribute to the times we’re in now?

We have a huge need for real journalism, for good reporting and for truth: It’s totally under attack. But the power of art and music to blur all those boundaries and enact a sort of feeling, to free words from their need to be specific, that is a totally different type of truth. I think there’s so much rigidity in the way we think about these issues. And our political climate is extremely polarized.

Even the WikiLeaks involvement with Hillary Clinton and the campaign — I don’t agree with their actions. On the other side, you see why: The Democrats, the mainstream Democrats, were very pro-secrecy and anti-transparency, even when they said otherwise. And they prosecuted whistle-blowers, and upped drone warfare in a really illegal way.

There’s so little room for gray area. And art does this really well. The more we understand the gray areas, the more we have empathy. That’s the role of art: a different truth, a better truth.

Has Chelsea Manning heard “The Source”?

She’s heard it. I have heard people in her support network have played the piece for her over the phone. And she liked it, I’ve heard. This is a public figure, and while the documents are all public, I mined her life for a piece of work. It’s my right to do that, but I wanted to own the really problematic nature of it. And I was happy to hear she liked it and appreciated it.
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/21/arts ... front&_r=0

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