Sarah Mattox, composer - "Heart Mountain" Premiere at Vespertine Opera Theater

1% ($250)
July 12th, 2015
Raised $250 of $15,000

About The Artist

Headshot of composer Sarah Mattox
Sarah Mattox, composer

Sarah Mattox’s first opera, Heart Mountain, will receive a workshop performance through Vespertine Opera Theater in July of 2015 under the musical direction of Grammy award winning conductor Stephen Stubbs. Mattox is a 2014 John Duffy Composers Institute Fellow, and won the 2013 Boston Metro Opera International Composers' Competition ‘OPERA PUPPETS Mainstage Award’ for her piece, "Rumpelstiltskin and the Falcon King." Called "entertaining, exuberant," and "just incredible," her compositions have been praised for their "natural sense of phrasing and flow," and "the just plain beauty of the music." Her song cycle, In the Garden has been performed across the country by leading singers, including Metropolitan Opera artist Michaela Martens. Often injected with a strong...

( See Full Profile)

Heart Mountain
A Chamber Opera based on the journal of Kara Kondo
Music by Sarah Mattox
Libretto by Sarah Mattox and Kara Kondo

This new chamber opera tells the story of Kara Kondo’s remarkable journey through her incarceration at Heart Mountain and her ultimate decision to answer this injustice with an act of true beauty. 

Heart Mountain has reached an important milestone in its development: the workshop. July 2015 will be the very first time the whole work will be performed for an audience. The workshop will be fully staged and singers will be “on-book,” carrying their scores for reference as various changes might be made by the creative team during the rehearsal process. While called a “workshop,” this will be a fully realized performance of the whole work. Nothing causes greater excitement among lovers of the arts than the creation of a brand new work, and we’d like to invite our donors to become an intimate part of this vital process. 

Donors receive many exclusive benefits for their generosity in supporting the creation of this bold new work. 

Donors at the $250 level will: 

  • Be listed in the program. 
  • Have a pair of VIP tickets reserved for the performance of their choice. 

​At the $500 level, donors will receive the above plus: 

  • An official poster of the show, signed by several members of the cast and creative team. 

At the $1000 level, donors will receive the above plus: 

  • Be able to attend a working rehearsal of HEART MOUNTAIN. The composer will be on hand to personally answer questions and share insights on the creative process. This rarely offered glimpse behind the scenes is not to be missed. 
  • Be invited to join in the cast party after the close of the final show. 

At the $2500 level, donors will receive the above plus: 

An invitation to a meet and greet with several members of the creative team and cast. This convivial event with hors d'oeuvres and beverages is ideal for chatting with the artists.

The Production

Vespertine Opera Theater and the Yakima Valley Museum are partnering to produce the workshop of Heart Mountain in 2015. Vespertine Opera will engage the creative team (stage director, music director, designer) and hold rehearsals over the course of 10 days. The workshop performance will be held in the former Immigration and Naturalization Services building, now housing InScape Arts. This building was the processing site for Japanese Americans in Seattle before they were shipped to the internment camp at Minidoka. The dress rehearsal and performances in Seattle will be both video and audio recorded for educational purposes and use in the future promotion of the opera.


The entire opera takes place on a single afternoon in 1956 as Kara Kondo gathers her writings, photos, and mementos together into her journal. She is waiting for her husband, Tak, to return home with their newly adopted daughter. The journal is meant one day for her.

Most of the action of the opera takes place as a series of flashbacks chronicling Kara’s experiences leading up to internment, her time in the camp, and her life after leaving Heart Mountain.

The opera opens with the Prologue of Kara’s journal in which she explains that this is not intended as a chronicle of historical events, but rather to share her personal experiences “with those who might be interested.”

Act I
Scene 1:  Opens with Kara’s sisters outside the family home, polishing shoes. Kara enters and discussion turns to speculation about where they and their community will be sent when the order finally comes. Tak, who is home on leave, is seen approaching, and Kara’s sisters leave the two alone. Tak expresses concern about their parents’ generation. They have worked in this country for 30 years and are ready to retire. They will lose everything when they are sent to the camps.
Scene 2:  Kara is working in the kitchen garden when a man stops by to look over their farm. He is one of many such speculators hoping to snap up a farm at pennies on the dollar. He becomes aggressive, but Kara is able to mollify him and direct his attention elsewhere.
Scene 3: Kara and her sisters help the soldiers with all the Japanese names as the families are loaded on the train to leave the valley. An earnest young soldier, Sargent Pete, thanks Kara for her help and tells her he doesn’t think what’s being done to her and her family is right. It warms Kara’s heart to know that there are still people who believe in them.
Scene 4: The internees from the valley arrive at the Heart Mountain camp. It is an impressive and overwhelming sight, with the mountain rising ominously above the rows of tar-paper barracks.

Act II
Scene 1: Opens with the sisters thinking of their life in the valley. Amy tries to look on the bright side of their situation, but Marge insists she acknowledge they are in a prison camp. Kara stops their quarrel, pointing out the American flag she can see beyond the fence.
Scene 2: They settle into life in the camp as best they can. A Halloween Dance is organized. Tak has come to visit while on leave. He proposes to Kara and she accepts. They will be married in the Spring.
Scene 3: The New Year is approaching and Kara is unable to sleep, excited to leave the camp and marry Tak, but ambivalent because she must leave her whole family behind.

Scene 1: Opens with Tak and Kara in their new home in Kentucky. Kara has just returned from the post office with a Christmas package from her mother. There are socks for Tak and new sheets for Kara. There is also a greeting card. Kara’s mother couldn’t read English, and she has sent them a “get well” card that inadvertently captures their situation with heartbreaking simplicity.
Scene 2: Returns to present day 1956 as Kara’s sisters arrive. Marge questions the wisdom of adopting such a troubled child. Kara responds with the little girl’s story in, “Child of Two Worlds.” Tak enters, carrying their new daughter, Elaine, who has fallen asleep on the car ride home. She wakes up, but is shy and withdrawn. Kara asks Elaine to look at her. The little girl hesitates, uncertain, but then throws herself into her new mother’s arms. The new family stands together looking toward a brighter future.

Sample tracks are available on the HEART MOUNTAIN website.

Vespertine Opera Theater

Vespertine Opera Theater is a company dedicated to the performance of operas outside of the standard repertoire. We strive to present rare works in fully realized dramatically and theatrically engaging productions, utilizing unique and unusual spaces. Our goal is to bring new works to old audiences and new experiences to audiences not familiar with the art form at an affordable and inviting price. We give opportunities to young up-and-coming artists and designers and employ them in all aspects of our productions.

The Creative Team

Dan Wallace Miller—Stage Director
Dan Wallace Miller is the Artistic Director of Vespertine Opera Theater, a Seattle-based company that presents operas in unique spaces. He and his company have produced an open-air production of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas and Holst’s Savitri, Poulenc’s La voix humaine in an intimate black box, and the U.S. premiere of Britten’s English adaptation of Poulenc’s Les mamelles de Tirésias at Seattle’s oldest Vaudeville theater and bar. Most recently he staged Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia in Seattle’s biggest landmark cathedral. Dan Wallace Miller has worked at Seattle Opera for their productions of Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen and Tristan und Isolde, Verdi’s Atilla, Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, and the Young Artists Program productions of Massenet’s Werther and Donizetti’s Don Pasquale. Engagements this year included Opera Colorado, Pacific MusicWorks, and Green Mountain Opera Festival. Upcoming engagements include directing Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte for Pacific MusicWorks at the University of Washington, Maxwell Davies' The Lighthouse and Faure’s Penelope with Vespertine Opera Theater.

Stephen Stubbs - Music Director/Conductor
Mayor’s Arts Award in August 2014 - Raising the bar for arts in Seattle

“A marriage of early music and cutting-edge contemporary artists typifies Stubbs’s innovative attitude. In Boston, where he has long served as artistic co-director of the Early Music Festival, Stubbs says he likes to focus on period authenticity in his opera productions, whereas in Seattle his approach combines authenticity with avant-garde staging and contemporary works.”

After a thirty year career in Europe, musical director and lutenist Stephen Stubbs returned to his native Seattle in 2006. Since then he has established his new production company, Pacific Musicworks, and developed a busy calendar as a guest conductor specializing in baroque opera and oratorio.

With his direction of Stefano Landi’s La Morte d’Orfeo at the 1987 Bruges festival, he began his career as opera director and founded the ensemble Tragicomedia. Since 1997 Stephen has co-directed the bi-annual Boston Early Music Festival opera and is the permanent artistic co-director. BEMF’s recordings of Conradi’s Ariadne, Lully’s Thesee, and Psyché were nominated for Grammy awards in 2005, 2007, and 2009.

Stephen was born in Seattle, Washington, where he studied composition, piano and harpsichord at the University of Washington. In 1974 he moved to England to study lute with Robert Spencer and then to Amsterdam for further study with Toyohiko Satoh and soon became a mainstay of the burgeoning early-music movement there, working with Alan Curtis on Italian opera in Italy, William Christie on French opera in France and various ensembles in England and Germany particularly the Hilliard Ensemble.

With his return to Seattle in 2006 he formed the long-term goal of establishing a company devoted to the study and production of Baroque opera.  His first venture in this direction was the creation of the Accademia de’Amore, an annual summer institute for the training of pre-professional singers and musicians in baroque style and stagecraft, now housed at the Cornish College of the Arts.

In 2008 he established Pacific MusicWorks. The company’s inaugural presentation was a revival of South African artist William Kentridge’s acclaimed multimedia marionette staging of Claudio Monteverdi’s penultimate opera The Return of Ulysses in a co-production with the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. After a warmly received 2010 presentation of Monteverdi’s monumental Vespers of 1610 at Seattle’s St. James Cathedral, PMW presented a full subscription season, opening with a program based on the Song of Songs and ending with two triumphantly successful performances of Handel’s early masterpiece, The Triumph of Time (1707).

As a guest conductor Stubbs has led performances of Gluck’s Orfeo and Handel’s Giulio Cesare in Egitto in Bilbao, Spain, and Monteverdi’s Orfeo at Amsterdam’s Netherlands Opera. Following his successful debut conducting the Seattle Symphony Orchestra in 2011, he was invited back in 2012 to conduct the Symphony’s performances of Messiah.  He will also debut with the Edmonton Symphony in Messiah this season.Sarah Mattox--Composer/Librettist 

Kimberly Sogioka - Mezzo-Soprano
Ms. Sogioka is slated to create the role of Mature Kara Kondo in Heart Mountain.

Praised by Opera (UK) as “...the most opulent female sound on the stage...” young Japanese-American mezzo-soprano Kimberly Sogioka is drawing much attention as an exciting artist on the operatic and concert stage.

Ms. Sogioka’s 2013/14 season engagements include Giovanna in Rigoletto with Opera New Jersey, and Nerone in Agrippina with Operamission, Dulcinée in Massenet’s rarely performed Don Quichotte with Utopia Opera, and Angelina in La Cenerentola with Dicapo Opera and in masterclasses with the Metropolitan Opera Guild in New York City.

A frequent collaborator with composers in new music projects, Ms. Sogioka created the role of Nurse 3 in the Metropolitan Opera and English National Opera workshop of Michael Torke’s Senna, and was an ensemble soloist in the Metropolitan Opera workshop of Scott Wheeler’s The Sorrows of Frederick, Susanna in Corigliano’s The Ghosts of Versailles with the Aspen Opera Theatre Center, and has collaborated with Clint Borzoni in his world premier operas Margot Alone in the Light and Antinous and Hadrian, as well as with Stephen Andrew Taylor in scenes from his opera Paradises Lost with Operamission.

Other recent performances include Mercedes as well as the title role in Bizet’s Carmen with the Crested Butte Music Festival as a member of the Marcello Giordani Young Artist Program and title role in Carmen with Opera Libera in Philadelphia.

Equally at home on the concert stage, appearances have included the west-coast premiere of Mack Wilberg’s Requiem with the Orange County Catholic Chorale, Irving Fine’s The Hourglass and An Immorality by Copland with The National Chorale at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center, and Das Lied von der Erde with the Orchestra Insonica at Paul Hall, and Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle with the Greenwich Choral Society.  Ms. Sogioka also collaborated with renowned harpsichordist Kenneth Cooper, in selections from Bach’s Weihnachts-Oratorium, and also performed as part of his masterclass series for the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.  She will be a featured soloist next season in a concert of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony with the Helena Symphony.

Granddaughter of Heart Mountain internees, Kimberly shares her personal relationship with the story.

“I have always had a strong affinity for my Japanese heritage, perhaps because of my great love and respect for my grandparents, Yoshimaro and Katsuko Sogioka.  They were the hardest working, and most generous people that I have ever known.  My mother, who for lack of a better description was white, tried to instill in us a sense of our culture and heritage.  I grew up eating with chopsticks, playing dress up in kimonos, and studying Japanese with a tutor. I had no idea at the time why she felt so strongly that we should have this tie to our heritage, and why my grandparents never spoke Japanese to us. It wasn’t until I was in elementary school and our class took a trip to Manzanar (an internment camp in CA), that I started to understand what had taken place. While I never felt the racism and hatred that my family had to deal with, I do remember even then, that a bully in the school grabbed me by the neck and threatened to leave me there “where I belonged.”

My grandfather, Yoshimaro, was born in CA to parents who had recently emigrated from Japan. Discrimination was a problem that didn’t just begin with the war. He remembered having to ride the bus to high school and seeing signs for the pool stating “City plunge--white race only.” When the evacuation orders were implemented, my family was moved to an assembly center in Pomona, CA, and then later sent to Heart Mountain in Wyoming. My grandfather, who learned to withstand hardships of discrimination in school and life working during the Great Depression, approached his difficulties in interment with the mentality of a survivor. Unfortunately his father, who had been raised in Japan with old codes of honor and dignity, was unable to fully recover emotionally from his time in the center, and passed away shortly after his internment.

My grandparents taught me to stay focused, keep working hard, and to always do my best, no matter the circumstances. The war did not make them bitter. They were always proud to be American and they worked harder to be a positive influence in their community because of their experiences. I am proud of their story, and am happy to be a part of a project that gives them a voice.”

Not comfortable donating online?  We accept donations via check as well.  Please mail donations to BELTÀ, 1712 E. Riverside Dr., Suite 25, Austin, TX 78741.  Be sure to mark "Heart Mountain" in the memo line so that your support can be routed towards this project.