"White Bird of Poston”
Poston Opera Performed at Japanese American National Museum
May 8 2011
The Los Angeles Opera’s In-School Opera for Secondary Schools presented the original piece “White Bird of Poston” on Sunday, May 15, at the Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo.
Composed by Eli Villanueva with librettist Leslie Stevens, “White Bird of Poston” is a 47-minute opera featuring four professional principal singers, three professional musicians, and original sets, costumes and lighting. The participating students will sing and perform the parts of the chorus, including as Japanese American inmates, U.S. soldiers and even animals.
The story concerns a 15-year-old Japanese American girl, Akiko, incarcerated in a World War II government-run camp in Arizona with her family. The camp is located on Native American land. Facing the challenge of her false imprisonment, Akiko meets a Native American boy, encounters a talking coyote, and communicates with the spirit of her grandmother. Lessons in courage, faith and even understanding of one’s own prejudice are major themes in this work.
The story was inspired in part by the watercolor paintings of Chizuko Judy Sugita de Quieroz, who was imprisoned in Poston camp I, block 38-7-C as a 9-year-old. She has exhibited widely and has published a book, “Camp Days, 1942-1945.”