American Bass-Baritone Michael Sumuel has participated in our Merola Opera Program and even sang a Schwabacher Debut Recital last season, but Heart of a Soldier marks his official San Francisco Opera debut. In this opera, his primary role is Tom, an American soldier and medic who loses his life in the battle of X-Ray in Vietnam.
Opening night is drawing closer! I came into this process knowing that it would be just that-a process. It isn't often that you'll make an important debut with a company such as San Francisco Opera in a world premiere with the composer and librettist present and telling the true story of three remarkable human beings. It is an overwhelming task to concisely describe the process up to this point but I am incredibly grateful to be just one piece within a larger scope.
Being one of five principle soldiers in the cast, we immediately began strictly regimented rehearsals with a fine cast of "super soldiers" as they are referred to during the rehearsal process. We have spent many hours marching together, constantly aiming for perfection and precision. Rick Sordelet (fight/movement director), Jonathan Rider (assistant fight director/SF Opera fight director) and Larry Pech (Choreographer) have commanded and will continue to command our utmost attention to detail and focus. All of us began to form an undeniable bond that has remained strong throughout this process and has yet to weaken. You can sense that no one individual wants to disappoint the man to his left or right. If there is a problem, we figure it out; no excuses. [Above: Michael Sumuel, William Burden and other soldiers rehearse the wedding scene in Heart of a Soldier. Photo by Kristen Loken.]
This selfless bond is present throughout the entire production. Compromise and selflessness have been present from day one of this rehearsal process. What has been truly remarkable about Heart of a Soldier is the universal understanding that this opera and this story transcends any one individual. It is our collective duty to respectfully honor the lives of those we have lost. Heart of a Soldier is not simply about the attacks on 9/11/2001 but the ideals deeply embedded within us when a fellow citizen needs us most. An undeniable bond has been formed. I hope that you will all join us here at San Francisco Opera to be a part of the bond that binds us all for Heart of a Soldier.
We all had the honor of being visited by a distinguished retired general, General Mike Myatt, prior to an afternoon rehearsal. It was awe inspiring to hear his incredible personal stories as well as secondhand accounts of Rick Rescorla. One thing that General Mike Myatt mentioned and continues to resonate with me is that a true soldier runs toward the challenge, never in the opposite direction regardless of how difficult it may be. [Retired Major General J. Michael Myatt with Francesca Zambello speaking with the cast of Heart of a Soldier. Photo by Michael Mustacchi.]