Wednesday, April 19, 2023

New opera about a drone operator, with presenting sponsor General Dynamics

Kennedy Center:
Mother. Soldier. What if both are at war?

Jess is a hot shot F-16 fighter pilot, an elite warrior trained for the sky. When an unexpected pregnancy grounds her, she’s reassigned to the “chair force” to control drones in Afghanistan from the comfort of a trailer in Las Vegas. But war “with all the benefits of home” isn’t clear-cut. As Jess tracks terrorists by day and rocks her daughter to sleep by night, the boundary between her worlds becomes dangerously permeable.

From Tony Award®–winning composer Jeanine Tesori (WNO’s acclaimed Blue in our 2022–2023 season) comes the unmissable world premiere of Grounded. Adapted from the play by George Brant and featuring his libretto, Grounded is a story about what it means to wage war at a distance abetted by technology. Mezzo-soprano Emily D’Angelo stars as a pilot and mother shaken into a downward spiral as her separation between career and home crumbles. In a first for opera stages, massive LED-screen technology will immerse audiences in the psychological and social implications of war-by-proxy. What comes at the cost of technological advancement? What’s lost when technology distances us from the horror of war? And what price is inflicted upon the operator of a lone drone in a blue sky?
“Grounded” is an adaptation of a 2013 one-woman play by the same name. Anne Hathaway starred in a 2015 production of the show [staged by Julie Taymor].

It’s unclear how closely the opera will hew to its predecessor. The original earned some acclaim for showing the dehumanizing effects of working as a drone pilot charged with shooting at people on the other side of the world and hovering above to watch the aftermath. It ended on a rather bleak note, as the now-jaded pilot warns the audience to “know that you are not safe.”

*Previously: Opera based on Frankenstein