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Ronald 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.

Reagan’s 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.

Opera 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.

No 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.

- Eric Reda

June 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.

Ron ‘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:

Michael Reagan, the adopted son who, as a conservative talk show host, has most closely aligned himself with his father’s political views.

Maureen 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.

Patti Davis, the black sheep who later returned to the fold; famous for her liberal views, her Playboy nudes, and a very angry memoir.

Ronald 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.

And finally, Christine Reagan, the daughter who died the same day she was born.

You 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 X.

It’s the story of an American family – maybe the American family. You might be surprised how much it sounds like your own.

- Joe Tracz

A Project of:

The NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY production of REAGAN'S CHLIDREN: An Opera-Oratorio is partially supported by a grant from the Center for Interdisciplinary Research in the Arts Committee at Northwestern University.

REAGAN'S CHLIDREN: An Opera-Oratorio is partially supported by a Community Arts Assistance Program grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency.

REAGAN'S CHILDREN: An Opera-Oratorio •