– Tom Sutcliffe, The Evening Standard
Music by Jonathan Dove
Libretto by April de Angelis
Based on actual events — the forced residence, from 1988 to 2006, of Iranian refugee Mehran Karimi Nasseri at Charles de Gaulle airport — Jonathan Dove’s opera Flight is a cynical comedy about what it means to be stranded. The refugee, tailed by an Immigration Officer, is surrounded by a variety of colorful characters: a couple on vacation, East European diplomats, a steward and a stewardess, an enigmatic older woman, an air traffic controller. While there are many moments of humor, Flight is also an exploration of the many faces of love: the struggle to re-ignite passion in an aging relationship, healing from the great loss of a loved one, and wondering how to be loved with the profound changes that come with parenthood. With a first-rate cast, and the inventive stagecraft of the Opera Parallèle team, Flight, at once comical and deeply human promises an operatic treat in a spectacle rich with visual perspective.
Act 1 – The Refugee cannot leave the airport because he does not have a passport or other documents to allow him to enter the country legally, therefore driving The Immigration Officer to look for the Refugee in order to arrest him. Surrounding this conflict is a cast of traveling characters involved in their own dramas. Married couple Bill and Tina are going on holiday to try to rediscover romance with the help of a sex manual. Minskman is a diplomat relocating for an assignment, and his wife, Minskwoman, is pregnant. The Stewardess and Steward, when not serving the customers, enjoy a vibrant physical relationship. At the last minute, the Minskwoman is afraid to fly, and her husband leaves without her. As Act I closes, the Controller announces that, because of the inclement weather, all flights are indefinitely delayed, and all the characters are suddenly stranded.
Act II takes place at night, just after the storm has grounded all the planes. After all the characters have gone to sleep, Bill, in an attempt to break out of his “predictable” nature, makes a pass at the Stewardess, but finds the Steward instead. The two of them agree to venture up to the heights of the control tower. The Refugee tries to insinuate himself with the various women and gives them (at various points) each a “magic stone” that he says will cure their individual travails. The women and the refugee decide to get drunk and, as the storm builds, the women realize that the Refugee has given them all the same “magic stone” and turn on him in a fit of rage, with dire consequences for the Refugee. The consequences of Bill and the Steward’s explorations are no less cataclysmic.
Act III takes place at dawn after the storm has cleared and every character is reeling from the events of the previous night. The Minskman has returned on the first available flight back, unable to face his separation. The Minskwoman goes into labor and delivers her baby in the terminal. The characters, with the insight of newborn life, reflect on the problems in their lives and offer forgiveness to each other for their wrongs. The other characters offer their help to persuade the Immigration Officer to reconsider the arrest of the Refugee, though all attempts are unsuccessful. The Immigration Officer says that the Refugee cannot leave the terminal, but he decides otherwise to “turn a blind eye” and not arrest him. Flights are called and under the Controller’s watchful eye, the airport returns to normal.
ARTISTIC AND PRODUCTION TEAM
Director: Brian Staufenbiel
Assistant Stage Director: Laura Anderson
Set Designer: Dave Dunning
Media Designer: David Murakami
Lighting Designer: Matthew Antaky
Costume Designer: Alina Bokovikova
Choreographer: Lawrence Pech
Wig and Makeup Designer: Jeanna Parham
Stage Manager: Bethanie Baeyen
Assistant Conductor: William Long, Jacques Desjardins
Production Manager: Jack Beuttler
Assistant Stage Manager: Saskia Lee
Assistant Stage Manager/ Intern: Lucy Coarsey
Props Artisan: Devon LaBelle
Assistant Costumer: Summer Hall
Pianist: Keisuke Nakagoshi
Music Intern: Benjamin Zucker
Supertitles Operator: David Gordon
COMPOSER – JONATHAN DOVE
Jonathan Dove (1959) is an English composer of opera, choral works, plays, films, and orchestral and chamber music. Throughout his career, Dove has been closely involved in community-based projects and has a special gift for inspiring and responding to the creativity of the participants, giving them a sense of ownership in the finished work. His breakthrough comic opera Flight was commissioned by Glyndebourne Touring Opera in 1998 and been produced and broadcast many times, in Europe, the USA and Australia. Dove has gone on to compose over twenty operatic works that consistently explore the ability of opera to communicate and enrich people’s lives. 2015 brought the World Premiere of The Monster in the Maze, a new community opera commissioned by the London Symphony Orchestra, Berliner Philharmoniker and Festival d’Aix-en-Provence, performed under the baton of Sir Simon Rattle in three separate productions. For more information, visit his website.
LIBRETTIST – APRIL DE ANGELIS
April De Angelis in an English dramatist of part Sicilian descent. A graduate of Sussex University and trained at East 15 Acting School, she is an acclaimed writer whose extensive theatre works often include historical figures. Playhouse Creatures and A Laughing Matter are set in 17th and 18th century London. Wanderlust examines Victorian colonialism and Iron mistress is a verse play exploring Lady Charlotte Guest’s factory ownership. In addition to Flight, De Angelis also wrote the libretto for Errollyn Wallen’s opera, Silent Twins, based on the real life case of June and Jennifer Gibbons.
TAI ONEY (COUNTERTENOR): THE REFUGEE‘s current and future engagements include Apollo in Death in Venice (new production) at Deutsche Oper Berlin with Mo. Runnicles, Hamlet in The Firework-Maker’s Daughter at Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, Clerio Moro in Cavalli’s Erismena at Festival d’Aix-en-Provence, Spirit/Sorceress in Dido and Aeneas at Birmingham Opera Company, Endimione in La Calisto with English Touring Opera, as well as joining the Dallas Opera and San Diego Opera for the world premiere of Jake Heggie’s Great Scott. He was a member of the Royal College of Music International Opera School until spring 2014, studying under the tutelage of Russell Smythe. Tai also recently performed Orlowsky in Die Fledermaus with Finnish National Opera, Adolfo in Faramondo with Brisbane Baroque, Australia, and Arsamene in Xerxes at Longborough Festival. Mr. Oney has performed in Handel’s Messiah, Haydn’s Paukenmesse, Bach’s St. John’s Passion, Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms and Honegger’s King David, among others. He holds degrees from Stetson University, Boston University and the New England Conservatory of Music. For more information, visit his website.