Opera Philadelphia’s new film version of David T. Little’s Soldier Songs, starring and directed by baritone Johnathan McCullough, premiered January 22 to widespread critical acclaim.
First premiered in 2006, David T. Little’s monodrama Soldier Songs was praised at the time for its remarkable portrayal of the rippling effects of war. The new filmic conception from Opera Philadelphia has built on that praise, with the Wall Street Journal calling it “even more powerful than it was as staged theater.” Musical America wrote that the work has a “timeless quality,” adding: “Soldier Songs remains a thoughtful and important work that in its cinematic garb loses none of its presence and power to disturb.”
The Opera Philadelphia production team gave Soldier Songs a full film treatment, shooting it on location in Pennsylvania’s Brandywine Conservancy, resulting in what Philadelphia Inquirer calls: “a standout achievement among COVID-19-era shows,” noting the film’s “rare, unflinching clarity and cinematic savvy.” The film is available on Opera Philadelphia Channel through May 31.
More praise for Opera Philadelphia’s Soldier Songs film
The New York Times
“That filmic conception puts a fresh — even revelatory — gloss on Soldier Songs. Its imagistic playfulness accords with the subtlety of the score’s blend of post-Minimalist and hard-rock influences.”
“This production of Soldier Songs ranks with some of the best vintage work in filmed opera.”
“It’s a trenchant, often moving and unsettling exploration of the myths, realities and challenges of military service and its often debilitating aftermath.”
“The music, composed for amplified septet, is drawn from the sounds and rhythms of battle. An onslaught of “steel rain” from the sky becomes a cacophony of sirens and whistles. At the end, the voices of distressed soldiers pile one on top of another, creating a multi-layered babble, the very modern equivalent of the closing ensemble in a 19th-century Italian opera. At its best, Soldier Songs gets inside the head.”
“Soldier Songs shows what a company can achieve by thinking creatively and working within the limits of the pandemic. Both the work itself and this expression of it are full of big, important ideas that should remain front-and-center long after the opera world returns to business as usual.”