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So. An Opera [about combat trauma], really? Yes.

June 5, 2014

From a very good friend, Stacy Bannerman, who has written, advocated, worked and lived the life of a caregiver of a veteran. 

I’ll admit that I was a little skeptical.  An opera, really? Written and composed by two people from southern Oregon, of all places, who had no direct connection to the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan, how could an opera possibly begin to capture how these wars were coming home for the veterans with PTSD and their spouses?  That was my frame of mind when I sat down with the rough cut DVD of the workshop performance of The Canticle of the Black Madonna staged at the University of Oregon last year. Sure, I’d read the remarks by the vets who had been in the audience that evening, including this one, from Miah Washburn, 1SG, U.S. Army Infantry, who is right now training for another deployment to Afghanistan with the Oregon National Guard 41st BDE:

“You honor me, and my brothers and sisters in arms, with this opera. Please know that as a combat veteran I am truly and deeply touched that you have undertaken such an elusive and misunderstood issue as combat-related PTSD in America today.  I am thankful to you all for what you do, and I know my fallen friends would be as well.”


But I was still skeptical.  Perhaps I’d been to one too many retreats, seminars, or workshops hungry for, if not healing, at least understanding, some recognition of the reality of what it can be like living with a veteran with combat trauma, and far too often, leaving disappointed, alienated, alone.  And then I watched, and pretty soon, I quit thinking, and started feeling, and then I was crying, a lot actually.  Because they got it, and they got it right.

In the first act, this original, contemporary opera provides a powerful snapshot of what is really going on in too many homes of too many veterans struggling with the trauma of war. But it doesn’t end there, at that point where too many of our families are stuck.  It doesn’t end at the place where our national conversation seems to have stalled.

In the second act – the whole thing runs just under two hours – the composer, Ethan Gans Morse, and the Librettist, Tiziana DellaRovere, move the music, the story, and us, the audience, onto a new pathway, a new possibility for finding our way forward after war, for daring to believe, for having the audacity to hope even in the midst of devastation that there is a path toward healing the souls of those wounded by war.  We aren’t going to get there alone, and this opera serves as both medium and message for that.

So. An opera, really?

Yes, really.

This opera, in particular, is resurrecting a 400-year-old genre to serve as a vehicle for addressing and transforming the invisible wounds of war, while bringing a serious dialogue about the role of the civilian community in healing the wounds of war to center stage.  A nationally-renowned cast is performing The Canticle of the Black Madonna, a groundbreaking opera about the power of love to transform the lives of military veterans suffering from PTSD on September 5th & 6th, 2014 at Portland’s Newmark Theatre.

We need your help. To fund the opera we have launched a crowdfunding campaign. Please support us by visiting:

Stacy Bannerman, M.S., is the author of When the War Came Home (2006) and spearheaded the passage of Oregon’s H.B. 2744, and H.B. 3391, which created the Governor’s Task Force on Military Families.  Stacy is the Director of Oregon Operations for The Canticle of the Black Madonna,  an original opera about combat PTSD, domestic abuse, and the healing of the soul.  E-mail her at her website,




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