Reagan is one of the most influential public figures in American
history, and also one of the most controversial. Whether you are
a supporter or detractor, you cannot deny that we live in the wake
of the Reagan Revolution and the indelible impression it left on
the American political scene.
Children: An Opera-Oratorio recognizes Reagan’s
divisive influence and attempts to go beyond the political debate.
In many ways Reagan was the father of our contemporary American
age and, like any powerful father, he instigates powerful and conflicted
feelings as well as difficult questions of legacy and responsibility.
To what extent is our parent’s legacy our legacy? Can we separate
the parent we know in private from their public actions? Whether
it is our own parent or a historical icon like Ronald Reagan, we
need to know our parent before we can judge them.
is an artform with as many divisive and predetermined opinions as
Ronald Reagan. While opera's heavily stylized, traditional structure
and history is perhaps the reason opera's relegation to the frienges
of popular artistic expression, it is undoubtedly the perfect medium
for exploring the issues raised in Reagan’s
Children: An Opera-Oratorio.
medium other than opera necessitates the same level of artistic
collaboration between the most poetic forms of music, text, acting,
and visual design. Combining to tell an expansive phsychological
story, it takes the input and energy of many artists from many creative
backgrounds to give life to a newly created opera. And a subject
as difficult, timely, and multifaceted as fatherhood, and the legacy
of Ronald Reagan requires such a grand and dynamic expression.
11th, 2009, marked the fifth anniversary of Reagan’s interment
ceremony. Perhaps the proximity of this date to Father’s Day
is appropriate. If our 40th president was really “everybody’s
grandfather”, then his portrait still looms large over our
cultural mantel – the legacy of this national patriarch casts
a wide shadow over American politics today. But Reagan wasn’t
just a father in metaphor; his own family has been a constant presence
in the public eye. It’s this other legacy that Reagan’s
Children: An Opera-Oratorio
puts on stage.
‘Jr.’, Maureen, Michael, and Patti: their conflicting,
shifting memories of their father reflect the contradictory views
and values of the nation itself. Eric Reda’s opera appropriates
his three surviving children’s interment eulogies, along with
sections of the requiem text, in order to tell their stories in
their own words:
Reagan, the adopted son who, as a conservative talk show host, has
most closely aligned himself with his father’s political views.
Reagan, his daughter with his first wife, who picked up her father’s
political torch even when he didn’t endorse her candidacy;
she died three years before him.
Davis, the black sheep who later returned to the fold; famous for
her liberal views, her Playboy nudes, and a very angry memoir.
Prescott Reagan, the son closest to his father, and subjected most
harshly to the spotlight; defender of his dad’s memory, even
as an outspoken liberal.
finally, Christine Reagan, the daughter who died the same day she
probably walked into this theatre with your own opinion of Ronald
Reagan, and that’s okay. But Reagan’s
Children: An Opera-Oratorio is ultimately an apolitical
piece, an exploration of fatherhood across three generations: it’s
the story of one man from the Greatest Generation, in the words
of his children, the voices of the Baby Boomers, as set to music
by a composer whose date of birth places him squarely in Generation
the story of an American family – maybe the American family.
You might be surprised how much it sounds like your own.