JACL, Calif. Opera Assn. Announce Premiere of ‘Sisters of Manzanar’

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FRESNO — The Central California District Council of the Japanese American Citizens League (CCDC-JACL) announces the West Coast premiere of a one-act opera, “The Sisters of Manzanar,” on Sunday, May 1, at the Warnors Center for the Performing Arts, 1400 Fulton St. in downtown Fresno.

The benefit performance will also feature a keynote discussion with actor George Takei and participation from the opera’s composer, Paul Stuart, followed by a VIP reception with the artists and celebrities.

Proceeds from the event will benefit the Fresno Assembly Center Memorial. A committee of community volunteers and dignitaries under the auspices of the CCDC-JACL has been working to create a lasting memorial at the Fairgrounds sharing the local story of internment.

“The Sisters of Manzanar” tells the story of internment through the experiences of sisters Lana and Amy when their family is sent to the Manzanar Relocation Center in the desert of California’s Owens Valley. A stellar opera talent, mezzo-soprano Miwako Isano, will star in the role of Amy.

Isano previously visited the Central Valley in performances at the Fresno Art Museum and the Shaghoian Concert Hall.

Efforts to bring the original opera to the Central Valley began a decade ago and represent a dream come true.

“We are overjoyed to present this moving story as a tribute to our Japanese American friends and as a gift to our community. Through the art and beauty of opera, we can share a most important educational message about hope, sacrifice and dignity for all,” said Edna Garabedian, general artistic director for the California Opera Association.

The event will start at 1:30 p.m. with a pre-show by the Clovis Heiwa Taiko Drummers, followed by the opera at 2 p.m. After the opera, Takei will share his personal story and challenge. The reception will immediately follow at 4:15 p.m.

Free tours of the Fresno Assembly Center Memorial site, the Pinedale Assembly Center Memorial and the Shinzen Japanese Garden will be offered on April 30, the day before the performance.

Takei spent most of his childhood at Rohwer in the swamps of Arkansas and at wind-swept Tule Lake in Northern California. At the end of the war, his family returned to their native Los Angeles.

With a career spanning five decades, Takei is best known for his founding role in the acclaimed television series “Star Trek,” in which he played Hikaru Sulu, helmsman of the USS Enterprise. Takei starred in three seasons of the series and later reprised his iconic role in six movies and several video games. More recently, he won over a new generation of fans with his recurring guest role on the sci-fi drama “Heroes” as Kaito Nakamura, the father of time-traveler Hiro Nakamura (Masi Oka). This year, Takei joins the cast of Nickelodeon’s new live-action comedy series “Supah Ninjas.”

Stuart has made significant contributions as a composer, conductor, educator, writer, and engineer. Many publications have praised his musical compositions, including “The Sisters of Manzanar,” described as “mesmerizing” by the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle.

Stuart has been featured on National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition,” and he is one of a handful of living composers whose life and musical compositions are the subjects of two doctoral theses. As a conductor, he has led orchestras, choruses and opera companies, including the California Opera Association in a production of “Haensel und Gretel.” He is the former music director of the Equinox Symphony Orchestra and served as the resident conductor for Opera Rochester.

Tickets can be purchased by credit card at Brown Paper Tickets, www.brownpapertickets.com. The cost is $30 for opera general seating only, $45 for opera preferred seating plus VIP reception.

Ticket purchases by check, made payable to “CCDC-JACL,” can be mailed to the California Opera Association, P.O. Box 9741, Fresno, CA 93794.

For further information, call (559) 225-6737 or visit the California Opera Association’s web site at www.calopera.org.

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