Chelsea Opera presents:
Tom Cipullo's Glory Denied based on the book by Tom Philpott November 12, 2015 at 7:30pm
November 14, 2015 at 2:00pm
Hear an audio excerpt
"Audio excerpt courtesy of Center for Contemporary Operafeaturing Jody Scheinbaum, Lucy Yates, Richard Byrne and Christopher Trakas with Mark Shapiro, conductor and Jeanne Golan at the piano.Date of Performance:6/26/06."
Older Thompson - high baritone
Older Alyce - soprano
Young Alyce, the idealized wife remembered through letters - soprano
Young Thompson, prisoner of war - tenor
Glory Denied - Synopsis
Glory Denied has four singing roles. Jim and Alyce Thompson are each played by two singers. Thus, young Alyce presents the character as Jim remembers her from letters written long ago. Older Alyce is the person she has become since his capture. Likewise, the older Jim reflects back on his imprisonment while the younger represents his character during the ordeal. On occasion, the singers may assume the voices of other figures as well (i.e. Pentagon spokesman, Army General, Vietnamese guard, etc.). Tableau I - In Captivity Colonel Floyd James Thompson (Jim), America’s longest-held prisoner of war, looks back on his years as a captive. He sees himself as a young man and recalls episodes from his nine-year ordeal; escape attempts, torture, the overwhelming loneliness of four years in solitary confinement, being forced to sign a propaganda statement. Through it all, he finds the strength to survive in memories of his wife and family. He recalls every letter his beloved Alyce sent to him before his capture.
As Thompson thinks on his idealized wife, Alyce receives the news that his surveillance plane has been shot down. Filled with fear and bitterness, she soon begins a relationship with another man (Harold), eventually moving in with him and telling the children that their father has died. Alyce denies permission for Jim’s name to be released to the public, not even for one of the P. O. W. bracelets that were common at the time. She consults a lawyer in an effort to have him declared legally dead.
As the act nears its conclusion, Thompson finds comfort in the 23 rd Psalm as themes from the opera swirl around him. On his last word (“forever�?, he is freed from prison, and a reunion with Alyce, inevitable and tragic, awaits. Tableau II - Welcome Home The P.O.W.s are released and Jim returns home. The Pentagon announces anotherman, a Navy pilot, as the longest-held prisoner. Excerpts from the Paris Peace Accords interrupt the pre-war memories of Jim and Alyce. Jim reads a letter of welcome from President Nixon, the text noting ominously that “Some things about America may appear to have changed since your departure. Alyce meets Jim and confesses. She offers to disappear if that is what he wants, but only after he hears her out. Jim decides to attempt a reconciliation. He notes how the nation has become different during his ordeal, at first mentioning improvements in material items and civil rights, but inevitably concluding with disdain for the new permissiveness and for his wife’s infidelity. Soon, the couple begins to fight, and Jim complains, “You’re not the Alyce I left. For her part, Alyce asserts her independence, refusing to be the docile obedient wife. She tells of what her life was like during his absence, of the callous behavior of neighbors and family, of late- night crank calls from malicious strangers, of her fear and loneliness. Jim visits the church where he and Alyce were married. He speaks to the congregation hopefully, ignoring the fact that his dream of home and family has been shattered.
Glory Denied may be the first opera adapted from an 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. Virtually all of the dialogue in the opera is taken literally from actual statements by the real people involved. On those few occasions where, for dramatic purposes, words have been changed or statements conflated, the composer has taken care not to alter the intent of the speaker.
Based on a book by Tom Philpott, this 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 of southeast Asia, but also the tragic aftermath that followed his liberation.It is, above all, the story of an American family during one 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 it encapsulate something of the moral essence of the Vietnam War and the imperishable bitterness of its legacy.
For more information, visit www.ChelseaOpera.org or call 212-260-1796. Tickets may be purchased on-line at OvationTix or by calling 1-866-811-4111.
This production is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, and from the New York State Council on the Arts, a state agency as well as by the Friends of Chelsea Opera.