Thursday, March 3, 2011

Sun Dance, an Opera on Leonard Peltier

Dear supporters of Leonard Peltier,

We are writing to let you know about a new vehicle for awareness and activism regarding Leonard Peltier’s continued imprisonment. Sun Dance, an opera composed by Matthew J. Walton, with a libretto by Leonard Walton, sets Leonard’s story within the historical context of oppression and abuse of Native Americans by the US government ( The opera challenges audiences to engage with contemporary themes of social justice, cultural and national identity, and collective responsibility. It begins with Leonard’s description of life in prison, then flashes back through several historical scenes, including the massacre at Wounded Knee in 1890 and the Native American occupation of Alcatraz in the 1970s. The second act brings the story into the present, through the interactions of several women at a rally to support Leonard. They struggle with issues of anger and forgiveness as they flash back to segments of Leonard’s trial, and reflect on his transformation during his years in prison.

The opera was written with Leonard’s approval and in consultation with many of the individuals and primary sources connected to his case. You can find out more about Sun Dance at, which contains audio excerpts, score excerpts, a synopsis and full libretto, educational materials, performance history, a press kit, and background on the subject matter, and will soon include video excerpts from previous performances.

Some of you may remember that Sun Dance was premiered in 2005 by the Syracuse Society for New Music. At that time there was also a live webcast of one of the performances that was broadcast to a global audience. Since then, the composer and librettist have significantly revised the piece, based on feedback from audiences, performers, Native American organizations and individuals, and people connected with the incidents described in the opera. We feel that the revisions have made the opera a much stronger work musically and dramatically, and that the piece is now more effective in sharing Leonard’s story with a wider and more diverse audience.

We hope that you will go to our website,, to learn more about the opera. Please feel free to link to our page on your own site, and to spread the news to Leonard’s supporters through your preferred social networking method. If your area has an opera company or a university with a music program, please consider contacting them and suggesting that they program Sun Dance. We would like to emphasize that the composer and librettist of this opera do not profit from any performances of it, and have created it as a vehicle for continuing to spread awareness of Leonard’s imprisonment, the situation of political prisoners, and the continued oppression of Native communities in the US. We welcome comments, questions, and suggestions through our website.


Matt Walton and Lenny Walton

No comments:

Post a Comment