Opera hammers out impact of globalization

    Immersive performance will be held in a factory
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    C. Stanley Photography, courtesy of UrbanArias

    Opera Grand Rapids will present “Last American Hammer,” a three-person contemporary opera, beginning with an evening performance Friday, Feb. 17 at 3251 Fruit Ridge Ave. NW. 

    “Hammer” is a thought-provoking production that portrays one man’s fight against the federal government. The piece poignantly and effectively showcases the impact that the decline of manufacturing has had on rural Americans.

    “The Last American Hammer is an excellent example of a contemporary American composer tackling a relevant contemporary subject; the changing effect the changes in American manufacturing have on the individual” said James Meena, Artistic Director of Opera Grand Rapids. “It is superbly relevant to West Michigan, and the state as a whole, which for generations has relied on manufacturing as the basis of economic activity.”

    In its first production of 2023, “The Last American Hammer” was commissioned by UrbanArias and tells the story of Milcom Negley, a man rocked by the closing of his town’s only major source of employment. As the entire community reels from the loss, Milcom finds himself falling deeper into conspiracy theories about federal overreach and takes his frustration out by occupying the only place in his town that receives federal funds– a rural museum.

    The work will be presented within the walls of a facility that manufactures fixed seating products, Irwin Seating Company, which generously offered its factory as the performance venue for a truly immersive experience.

    “We hope to elevate the importance of manufacturing in our community and to honor our patrons who work in manufacturing,” said Emilee Syrewicze, the Executive Director of Opera Grand Rapids, referencing a recent analysis by Deloitte that estimates a talent shortfall of skilled labor of approximately 2.1 million by year 2030.

    “By hosting this important work in their factory, our partners at Irwin Seating are reminding opera patrons that locally-owned manufacturing is alive and well in Grand Rapids,” Syrewicze said.

    Only the third professional opera company to produce “Hammer,” the performance underscores Opera Grand Rapids’ dedication to pushing the boundaries of the art form while presenting new work for both new and loyal audiences.

    The show starts at 7:30 p.m. while a matinee on Sunday, Feb. 19, begins at 2 p.m. Student tickets are available for $5. Tickets are on sale now at operagr.org or by calling the box office at 616-451-2741.

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