Bodhi Tree Concerts Stages Redler and Dye’s Opera ‘The Falling and the Rising’ in Point Loma

It has taken a while for Zach Redler and Jerre Dye’s 2018 opera on military life The Falling and the Rising to make its way to San Diego. Seattle Opera successfully staged the work in 2019, and San Diego Opera, another of the several companies that commissioned The Falling and the Rising, scheduled a production for its 2020 season.

(l. to r.) Benjamin Hilgert, Emily Weinberg, Christine Taylor Price, Ian Bowling & Walter DuMelle [photo (c.) Estaban Marin]

Because of the Covid lockdown, however, that San Diego season never saw the light of day, and when symphony orchestras and opera companies were allowed to resume live on-stage performance, San Diego Opera decided not to stage this work. Audiences did not return in the same number after Covid, and San Diego Opera decided Redler and Dye’s contemporary opera posed too great a financial risk.

Stepping in where angels fear to tread, Bodhi Tree Concerts staged the local premiere of The Falling and the Rising Friday at the Point Loma Assembly. Bodhi Tree Concerts has made its mark locally by successfully presenting controversial and lesser-known works on a shoestring. This critic was pleased—but not at all surprised—when the company announced it would stage The Falling and the Rising. Last year, for example, Bodhi Tree Concerts staged Ricky Ian Gordon’s recent chamber opera Autumn Valentine down at Park & Market in the East Village, and in 2022 the company staged Purcell’s classic Dido and Aeneas at Bread & Salt in Barrio Logan. The production by Bodhi Tree Concerts that is seared in my memory, however, is Peter Maxwell Davies’ Eight Songs for a Mad King, the company’s brilliant tour de force outing that featured Bodhi Tree Co-founder bass Walter DuMelle, creatively staged in 2017 in a banquet hall at the U.S. Grant Hotel in downtown San Diego.

For this production of The Falling and the Rising, Bodhi Tree Concerts assembled a strong cast of five singers smartly directed by Kym Pappas with a pit orchestra of eleven instrumentalists under the accomplished baton of Karen Keltner, who was San Diego Opera’s Resident Conductor before her retirement.

Soprano Christine Taylor Price took the commanding role of the soldier who opens the play with an extended aria in the form of a Skype conversation with her young daughter back on the home front. Although I was tempted to describe The Rising and the Falling as a chamber opera, once I heard Price navigate the grand opera dimensions of her daunting opening aria, I decided that designation was inadequate. A dramatic soprano with a thrilling top, Price not only sailed through her role’s vocal challenges, but she brought telling emotional depth to a mother whose commitment to military service tests and compromises her deepest maternal instincts.

As the saga of Price’s soldier unfolds, stores of four additional soldiers appear in dream sequences. Emily Weinberg’s assertive, sonorous mezzo-soprano made a convincing Toledo, a soldier from the wrong side of the tracks who overcomes prejudice and indignities from her officers. I was particularly moved by the eloquent bass baritone Sergeant First Class Ian Bowling as he gave his testimony—seated in a wheelchair—to his home congregation about military service. This soldier recounts his pastor’s invitation to address his congregation that included the prod, “Of course you will talk about faith!” The soldier’s description of how military combat had affected his faith was no doubt a shock to the pastor’s naive, condescending request.

Walter DuMelle [photo (c.) Estaban Marin]

Master Sergeant Benjamin Hilgert came up with the original concept of The Falling and the Rising, and he sang the role of the flier who poetically communicates the exhilaration of parachuting to Price. His agile but light tenor did not quite measure up to the vocal prowess of the rest of the cast. If their voices were decorated veterans, his voice was still in boot camp. Walter DuMelle’s dependable, resonant bass proved crucial as he portrayed a Colonel’s grief over the loss of a beloved spouse.

Considering the complexity of Redel’s instrumental score, hiring Keltner to conduct was a prudent move, and the small chorus under her direction proved equally disciplined. In the modest confines of Point Loma Assembly’s performance area, the orchestra played from the stage, and the singers used a rather wide center aisle with several rows of chairs for the audience facing that center space. Although it was an unusual configuration, stage director Kym Pappas and lighting designer Twyla Arant proved miraculously resourceful.

This opera was presented by Bodhi Tree Concerts at the Point Loma Assembly on Friday, May 10, 2024, with additional performances on May 11 & 12.


  1. Connie Coe on May 13, 2024 at 2:34 pm

    It was my first Opera, and I thoroughly enjoyed the performance. The singing was stellar and the emotional presentation was class. I hope more performances are planned. The cast was fantastic and all of them did a outstanding work.

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