1000 Airplanes on the Roof

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1000 Airplanes on the Roof
melodrama by Philip Glass
Philip Glass in Florence, Italy - 1993.jpg
Glass in Florence, 1993
July 15, 1988 (1988-07-15)

1000 Airplanes on the Roof is a melodrama in one act by Philip Glass which featured text by David Henry Hwang and projections by Jerome Sirlin. It is described by Glass as "a science fiction music drama".

The work was commissioned by the Donau Festival, Krems an der Donau, The American Music Theater Festival, Philadelphia, and West Berlin City Council in 1988. It premiered on July 15, 1988, at the Vienna Airport in Hangar #3. The performance featured vocals by Linda Ronstadt and was conducted by Michael Riesman. The US premiere took place in September 1988 at The American Music Theater Festival, Philadelphia and went on to play in 40 US cities and Canada, including New York, Boston, Chicago and Toronto, as well as Glasgow, Scotland during that city's celebration as European City of Culture.


The drama is set in New York City with a sole character, "M", who recalls encounters with extraterrestrial life forms, including their message:

It is better to forget, it is pointless to remember. No one will believe you. You will have spoken a heresy. You will be outcast.

In the staged production, "M" performs in the midst of a three-dimensional, holographic set. In the classic sense of the word melodrama, the role is performed by an actor in a spoken monologue over music. Although in the world premiere, "M" was played by a male actor, the character was played alternately by female actor Jodie Long and male actor Patrick O'Connell in many of the US performances.[1]


  • Philip Glass: 1000 Airplanes on the Roof (The Philip Glass Ensemble and Linda Ronstadt; Martin Goldray, Music Direction), 1989. Virgin 86106-2


The libretto and images of the original set are published in:

  • Philip Glass, David Henry Hwang and Jerome Sirlin (Introduction by John Howell), 1001 Airplanes on the Roof, Salt Lake City: Peregrine Smith Book, 1989 ISBN 0-87905-343-7


  1. ^ FOB and Other Plays, Plume, 1990

Further reading[edit]