May 8, 2007

Glory Denied

This past weekend was the world premiere of Tom Cipullo's opera, Glory Denied. It was presented by none other than the Brooklyn College Opera Theater workshop with the Conservatory Orchestra, which of course involves yours truly as concertmistress!

Anyway. The opera is the true story of Colonel Jim Thompson, the longest-held prisoner of the Vietnam War. The opera is unique in that it is based entirely on real dialogue and events. There are only four characters- Old Jim, Young Jim, and Young and Old Alice (Jim's wife). Here are the composer's notes on the opera:

Glory Denied may be the first opera adapted from oral history. As such, it presents no linear narrative. Rather, it jumps from moment to moment, as a man's mind might leap when subjected to horrific stress. Almost all of the dialogue in the opera is taken literally from actual statements by the people involved . . . . Based on a book by Tom Philpott, the opera tells the true story of Colonel Jim Thompson, America's longest-held prisoner of war. The story deals not only with Thompson's suffering in the jungle prisons of Southeast Asia, but also the tragic aftermath that followed his liberation. It is, above all, the story of an American family during one of our nation's most turbulent eras. In its review of Mr. Philpott's book, The New York Times stated:

Indeed it is not too much to say that Glory Denied and Colonel Thompson's mixed feelings about [the book] encapsulate something of the moral essence of the Vietnam War and the imperishable bitterness of its legacy.

The music was quite difficult to learn, both for the performers and the orchestra, but it was well worth it. Saturday night's premiere was rather well attended; composers such as John Corigliano and David del Tredici were supposedly in the audience, along with Tom Cipullo himself. Friday night's dress rehearsal was filmed by the school's Television department, and will be broadcast on the CUNY t.v. network at some point. The New York Times was also present on Friday, and I heard that they would be reviewing the premiere.


The performances really came together, and were exceptionally well received by the audience at both the Saturday night showing and the Sunday matinee. The composer was really enthusiastic about how everything went (he was around for many of the rehearsals this past month) and took the time to tell me (several times) that he thought I was doing a great job with the difficult violin part. Well ... the hardest part for me--the Entr'acte between the first and second scenes of Act II (scored for solo violin, clarinet, cello, bass and piano)-- was omitted, which reduced my stress level by at least half.

I was going to get a picture with Tom Cipullo after Sunday's performance, but it sadly turned out that my camera battery had died sometime over the weekend. Otherwise you would have gotten to see a very relieved Devora standing next to a very pleased Tom Cipullo. Since that obviously won't be happening .... I guess this is the end of the entry.

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