Los Angeles State Historic Park
Los Angeles, CA
Opera composed by Du Yun and Raven Chacon
with libretto by Aja Couchois and Douglas Kearney
directed by Yuval Sharon and Cannupa Hanksa Luger
Sweet Land re-imagines narratives surrounding the founding of America and westward expansion in order to make visible the violence and erasure of American history. The audience will experience several narrative viewpoints simultaneously in two audience groups, featuring ships, trains, feasts, colonization, irony, and violence in a tapestry that actively resists linearity, hierarchies, binaries, and didacticism.
Sweet Land opens and closes with two amorphous scenes that deal with colonization, as well as two direct and easy to identify scenes: a feast and a train. The feast imagines the first meeting of a "host" community and an "arrival" community and the assumptions and attitudes of those groups. The train imagines the violent effect of westward expansion on people, land, and animals. Several additional small scenes deal with issues such as land destruction vs. preservation, capitalist endeavors, political rhetoric, and cultural misunderstandings, all revolving in some way around colonization and whitewashing.
Built on collaboration, Sweet Land features two directors, two composers, and two librettists; central to the project is the diversity of its creative voices. Co-director Cannupa Hanksa Luger is a multi-disciplinary installation artist of Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara, Lakota, Austrian, and Norwegian descent. His work examines the 21st-century reality of indigenous identity through politics and performance.
Composer Du Yun is a Chinese immigrant whose recent work is rooted in a “lack of understanding and empathy around immigration.” Her opera Angel’s Bone, which explores human trafficking, won a Pulitzer Prize for music. Composer Raven Chacon is from the Navajo Nation and advocates for indigenous composers and musicians.
Librettist Douglas Kearney is a poet whose writing, in the words of BOMB magazine, “pulls history apart, recombining it to reveal an alternative less whitewashed by enfranchised power.” Librettist Aja Couchois Duncan is a mixed-race Ojibwe writer with a focus on social justice.