Ryan McKinny Stars in the World Premiere of Jake Heggie’s ‘Before It All Goes Dark’

By Afton Wooten

 (Photo credit: Jiyang Chen)

In celebration of its 25th anniversary Music of Remembrance will give the world premiere of “Before It All Goes Dark,” a new opera by Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer.

The creative team based the opera on “Mac’s Journey,” the true story of Gerald “Mac” McDonald, a gravely ill and deeply troubled Vietnam War veteran, which was first reported by Howard Reich in the Chicago Tribune from 2001-2002. The plot follows Mac who grew up poor, angry, and disenfranchised in the suburbs of Chicago, unaware of his Jewish ancestry. Reich tracked him down as part of an investigation inspired by his own family’s experiences during the Holocaust. When Mac learned that he was heir to a priceless art collection stolen by the Nazis, the two men embarked on a quest to Eastern Europe to uncover secrets of the past.

Bass-baritone Ryan McKinny takes on the lead role of Gerald “Mac” McDonald. He is joined by mezzo-soprano Megan Marino who plays three characters, Mac’s neighbor, a curator at the Jewish Museum in Prague, and Mac’s ancestor, Emil Freund in the one-act opera. Joseph Mechavich conducts the chamber ensemble and Erich Parce directs.

Of the opera, Reich said in a press release, “If Mac were alive today, I believe he’d be stunned and pleased to discover that the world still wants to hear from a long-forgotten Vietnam vet. Thanks to Jake Heggie, Gene Scheer, and Music of Remembrance, Mac’s story of tragic loss and surprising redemption will live forever on the operatic stage.”

“Before It All Goes Dark” makes its world premiere in Seattle’s Benaroya Hall on May 19. Followed by performances at San Francisco’s Presidio Theatre on May 22, before concluding with two performances on May 25-26, 2024, in collaboration with Chicago Opera Theater, at the Studebaker Theater in Chicago.