News / Arts & Entertainment

Opera Fallujah Shows US Veteran's Inner Battle

Mike O'Sullivan
The suffering of war is being depicted in an opera that can be seen on the Internet and may one day be in American opera houses.  The production, called Fallujah, is based on the experiences of an American Marine in Iraq. It's sponsored by explore, a division of the Annenberg Foundation, a charity known for funding media projects.

The opera, Fallujah, is inspired by real-life events. It highlights 72 hours in the life of a U.S. Marine who recalls his battle experience in Iraq.

“Fallujah is based on one of America's most deadly battles and the chaos that ensures when a soldier one day is friends with this young Muslim man, but on the next day, when he sees him, will have to kill him,” said Charlie Annenberg Weingarten of the Internet site Explore.org who conceived the project.

The opera was staged and recorded in Vancouver with help from a professional composer and librettist.  For the moment, it's being presented in installments on the Internet.   

It was inspired by the experience of Marine Corps veteran Christian Ellis, a sergeant and machine gunner.  He was changed by what he went through in Fallujah, west of Baghdad, in 2004.

“I took a lot of my own personal experiences that dealt with suicide, that dealt with a lot of dark moments, and turned it into a way that people could understand,” Ellis explained.

Ellis grew up with opera and says telling his story in this genre was healing.

“It’s helped me so much that I wish that this type of therapy was more readily available to veterans - music, expression,” Ellis added.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan raise questions, Weingarten says.

“As the wars wind down, the new war is going to be, how do we deal with the personnel that is coming home?  It’s a very serious issue.  And so it fits all the beats of traditional opera," said Weingarten.

Christian Ellis says for him and his comrades, the war on the ground may be over, “But you’re still fighting a battle that goes on in your head.”

That inner battle is set to music in Fallujah, the opera.  Its producers hope to put it on stage in the United States.

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