Backstage at San Francisco Opera > August 2011 > It's So Different When They Are Real
It's So Different When They Are Real
Heart of a Soldier is a compelling true story of two men who are the grit and grizzle of what we call American Heroes and I get to cover one of them: Dan Hill
This story is so amazing at all levels, and so close to the heart that it's hard not to get wrapped up in it. In this situation, the man is not only real, but he is alive, and will be here to see the production.  One wants to be as accurate as possible when performing the life of another.
I am covering Bill Burden in this production, who sings the role so perfectly that one would believe it was composed for him alone.  He received a letter from the real Dan Hill, which he shared with the cast. These guys are the kind of men you want to admire for their hard work, discipline, and contributions to the causes, that, whether or not they agreed with them, they fought and served for.  
Dan included the poem "If..." by Rudyard Kipling, which Rick had read to him many times, in his letter to Bill Burden. The last part of the poem reads, "...if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you, if all men count with you, but none too much!"  In the letter, Dan underlined the part saying, "if all men count with you, but none too much;" and wrote next to it that he had screwed that part up when it came to Rick.  He had let Rick into his heart and the loss of him affected him greatly, defying the wisdom of the poem.  To me, this describes Dan Hill more than any other point.
I feel honored to be a part of this production because it brings up so many important topics over the last 50 years of American history.   Each one is represented in a way that is demonstrative of the time and place they happen.  One of my favorite moments is the Vietnam Battle scene.  Evidently, when the Vietcong were in the jungle, they'd communicate by whistling.  Theofanidis composes an eerie whistling into the score that seems to scream over the orchestra, even though the scene is very quiet at first.  Then, in full Rick Rescorla way, the scene depicts how he made his troops sing to overcome their fear and gain focus.   It's unlike any other American opera I've heard.  [Above: Dan Hill and Rick Rescorla as American soldiers. Photo courtesy of Susan Rescorla.]
We all know where we were that day. What we were doing the moment the first plane hit.. the next.. and so on.. I still find myself watching the History Channel as they show the whole morning minute by minute every year on 9/11 to remember. The second I turn it on, I'm glued to the TV. No matter how much I know what happens next, I watch every second because I still can't believe it. Now, doing this opera, I can imagine even more closely the events that took place that morning.   How can we be so cavalier about this today? I don't know the answer to that. Should we live cautiously, or should we embrace the freedom we so boldly preach? I guess there has to be a balance somewhere in there.
I know every person who comes to see this opera will have his or her own connection to each part of it.  It's another way for us to not forget, and a way to remember a man who made a difference in many situations over his life.  I, for one, have enjoyed the process thus far and am looking forward to seeing the final product.
To read the full version of this blog post, please visit
Posted: 8/31/2011 11:12:17 AM by Brian Jagde (Dan Hill Cover, Heart of a Soldier)
Filed under: HeartOfASoldier, singer


Backstage at San Francisco Opera is a fascinating, fast-moving, mysterious and sacred space for the Company’s singers, musicians, dancers, technicians and production crews. Musical and staging rehearsals are on-going, scenery is loaded in and taken out, lighting cues are set, costumes and wigs are moved around and everything is made ready to receive the audience. From the principal singers, chorus and orchestra musicians to the creative teams for each opera, in addition to the many talented folks who don’t take a bow on stage, this blog offers unique insight, both thought-provoking and light-hearted, into the life backstage at San Francisco Opera.


Blog postsRSS