2022

University to host live premiere of UCLA Fielding School of Public Health's professor’s opera on veterans’ struggles


“Veteran Journeys,” an award-winning opera written by Dr. Kenneth Wells, explores the struggles of America’s military veterans.

"Veteran Journeys" poster

Veteran Journeys,” an award-winning opera written by Dr. Kenneth Wells, UCLA Fielding School of Public Health professor of health policy and management and professor of psychiatry at the David Geffen School of Medicine, that explores the struggles of America’s military veterans, will be performed for live audiences for the first time at UCLA’s Semel Auditorium on July 22 and 24.   

“Veteran Journeys” is based on research interviews of veterans and family members conducted by RAND and UCLA over many years in addition to Wells’ experiences and those of his family members working with the veteran community. The opera also touches on themes of recovery from homelessness and post-traumatic stress disorder.  

Wells said he developed the opera, which will be performed in oratorio style, “to share stories of the journey to recovery for veterans and their family members and the collaboration among providers to serve them on their path to recovery.” He also hopes to show “how art can engage the community in addressing key social issues and help address the stigma of receiving needed mental health services for veterans.”  

A film version of “Veteran Journeys” released last year received awards in multiple film festivals. It was the opera official selection for the Awareness Film Festival in Los Angeles and won the festival’s Special Jury Courage Award for portraying veterans’ courage and those who serve them. It also received several awards from the “Docs Without Borders” International Film Festival, including for best docu-drama feature in the social issues category.   

Wells teaches at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, the Jane and Terry Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, and the David Geffen School of Medicine, all at UCLA. “Veteran Journeys” is the third opera written by Wells, whose previous work also explored mental health themes.  

The upcoming performances are free and open to the public, and they will also be streamed online. Registration and more information on COVID-19 precautions at the live performances is available online.  

The performances will also include an evaluation of audience impact through voluntary surveys and a post-performance discussion with the composer and cast members. The evaluation, conducted in collaboration with the National Endowment for the Arts Center at UCLA, captures the experience of audience members to inform how opera may be a tool for public engagement in mental health, with lessons learned for future performances or new operas on mental health themes.   

When: July 22 at 7 pm PT; July 24 at 3 pm PT  

Where: UCLA’s Semel Institute for Neuroscience, Semel Auditorium (Room C8-183) 
720 Westwood Plaza 
Los Angeles, CA 90024 

For more information: Dr. Wells discusses with UCLA’s Newsroom his experience working on “Veteran Journeys.”


The UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, founded in 1961, is dedicated to enhancing the public's health by conducting innovative research, training future leaders and health professionals from diverse backgrounds, translating research into policy and practice, and serving our local communities and the communities of the nation and the world. The school has 761 students from 26 nations engaged in carrying out the vision of building healthy futures in greater Los Angeles, California, the nation and the world.

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