An Opera in Three Acts
Libretto by April de Angelis
Commissioned by Glyndebourne
World Premiere: Glyndebourne Touring Opera, Glyndebourne, 24 September 1998
Jonathan Dove’s breakthrough work, Flight, was commissioned by Glyndebourne and premiered there in 1998 with further performances in 1999 and 2005. The question from the then General Director, Anthony Whitworth-Jones, was whether Jonathan Dove could create ‘A Marriage of Figaro for the 1990s’. And the answer was a superb original modern-day operatic comedy which has found universal popularity, with many different productions and over 85 performances to date across the world.
With a libretto by leading British playwright April de Angelis, the opera has both laugh-out-loud and more serious moments as the story of the refugee who lives in the airport – inspired by the true-life story of an Iranian refugee who lived at Charles de Gaulle Airport, Paris, for 18 years – unfolds around the different characters who find themselves delayed in the terminal.
Written for an ensemble cast of 10 singers, this opera, with its dynamic airport setting and scintillating orchestral writing – including the thrilling aeroplane take-off – continues to have a compelling immediacy.
Act One – Dawn: and the Controller sits in her tower. People start to arrive at the airport – for the Refugee to `befriend': a married couple, Bill and Tina, are going on holiday to rediscover romance; the Older Woman is meeting a young man whom she met in Mallorca – she would like to remain inconspicuous; the Steward and Stewardess go about their business – some of the time. Another couple arrive, almost late for their flight to Minsk, to emigrate; the Minskwoman is pregnant. At the last moment she refuses to board the plane and her husband leaves without her. The Refugee offers her a magic stone to comfort her. The travellers are preparing to depart when the Controller announces that, because of storms, flights are indefinitely delayed.
Act Two – Night: the storm rages. The Controller leaves her tower and wanders about outside. Everyone tries to sleep, but, in pairs or alone, they secretly approach the Refugee, fascinated by his magic stone. He gives them all what each thinks is the unique stone and they make wishes. Bill is restless and seeks out the Stewardess, but finds the Steward instead: they go off to explore the control tower. The women and the Refugee decide to get drunk, and, as they become more garrulous, the women discover that each of them has `the’ stone. They vent their anger, with dire consequences for the Refugee. The consequences of Bill and the Steward’s explorations are no less cataclysmic.
Act Three – Dawn: the storm abates, flights resume. The Minskman returns, unable to face his separation. Bill and the Steward have a surprise for their partners. Tina has a nasty surprise for Bill. The Refugee has a surprise for the women. The Minskwoman has a surprise for everyone. When the Refugee tells his story, even the Immigration Officer has a surprising reaction. Flights are called and under the Controller’s watchful eye, the airport returns to normal…
Glyndebourne Touring Opera, UK, September to December 1998
Glyndebourne Festival Opera, UK, August 1999
Nationale Reisopera, The Netherlands (Glyndebourne production), November to December 2001
Vlaamse Oper, Belgium (Glyndebourne production), February to March 2002
Opera Theatre of St Louis, USA (New production by Colin Graham), June 2003
Oper Leipzig, Germany (New production by Ralf Nürnberger), sung in German translation by Ralf Nürnberger, April 2004
Boston Lyric Opera, USA (St Louis production) April to May 2005
Glyndebourne Festival Opera, UK (Revival), August 2005
Moores Opera Center, USA (New Student production), January 2006
State Opera of South Australia, Adelaide Festival, Australia (Glyndebourne production), March 2006
Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, UK (New Student production), June 2006
Pittsburgh Opera, USA (New production), January to February 2008
British Youth Opera, UK (New production), September 2008
UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music, USA, April to May 2010
Austin Lyric Opera, USA (Pittsburgh production), April 2011
Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, UK, June 2013
Opera Fayetteville, USA, January 2014
Opera Holland Park, UK, June 2015
Mannes School of Music, USA, May 2015
Julliard Opera, USA, November 2016
Opera Parallèle, USA, February 2017
Theaterakademie August Everding, Germany, February 2017
Duration, Technical Information and Resources
Opera in Three Acts | 135 minutes
Libretto by April de Angelis
German singing translation by Ralf Nürnberger
Commissioned by Glyndebourne
First performed 24 September 1998, Glyndebourne Opera House, Glyndebourne Touring Opera, directed by Richard Jones and conducted by David Parry
Best Opera – 2006 Helpmann Awards, Australia
Recording: Jonathan Dove, Flight, Glyndebourne Festival Opera, London Philharmonic Orchestra/David Parry, Chandos CHAN 10197(2)
Vocal score available
Act 1: That’s us. Is that us?
Act 1: Look! The plane is moving now.
Act 2: I bought this suitcase in New York.
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