Flight (opera)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Opera by Jonathan Dove
Backstage at the Prinzregententheater in Munich (2017)
LibrettistApril De Angelis
Based onthe true-life story of Mehran Karimi Nasseri
24 September 1998 (1998-09-24)

Flight is an English-language opera in three acts, with music by Jonathan Dove and libretto by April De Angelis. Commissioned by Glyndebourne Opera, Glyndebourne Touring Opera premiered the work at Glyndebourne Opera House in a production by Richard Jones on 24 September 1998. It received its Glyndebourne Festival premiere with the original cast at Glyndebourne Festival Opera on 14 August 1999, and was revived at Glyndebourne in August 2005.[1]

De Angelis took part of the inspiration for the plot from the true-life story of Mehran Karimi Nasseri, an Iranian refugee who lived at Charles de Gaulle Airport, Paris, for 18 years, unable to exit the airport terminal.[2] Some of the same real events surrounding Nasseri were later used in the story for the 2004 Steven Spielberg film The Terminal, independently conceived after the opera.

Dove has also arranged music from Flight into an orchestral suite, titled Airport Scenes, for concert performances. This suite was first performed in Warwick on 7 March 2006.


Role Voice type Premiere cast, 24 September 1998
(Conductor: David Parry (conductor))
Refugee countertenor Christopher Robson
Controller soprano Claron McFadden
Bill tenor Richard Coxon
Tina soprano Mary Plazas
Stewardess mezzo-soprano Ann Taylor
Older Woman contralto Nuala Willis
Steward baritone Garry Magee
Minskman baritone Steven Page
Minskwoman mezzo-soprano Anne Mason
Immigration Officer bass-baritone Richard Van Allan


The setting is the departure lounge of an unspecified airport. The opera takes place over the course of one full day and the following morning.

Act 1[edit]

In the airport, all of the characters are en route somewhere, except for the Controller, the Refugee, and the Immigration Officer. The Refugee cannot leave the airport because he does not have a passport or other documents to allow him to enter the country legally. The Immigration Officer looks for the Refugee in order to arrest him. Married couple Bill and Tina are going on holiday to try to get their relationship out of its routine with the help of a sex manual. The Older Woman, appearing in disguise, has come to the terminal to wait for her "fiancé"—a younger man that has promised to meet her. Minskman is a diplomat relocating for an assignment, and his wife, Minskwoman, is pregnant and on the brink of childbirth. The Stewardess and Steward, when not serving the customers, enjoy a vibrant physical relationship. At the last minute, Minskwoman is afraid to fly, and Minskman goes to his destination without his wife. The Flight Controller warns of approaching storms. The Older Woman's fiancé has not arrived, and Bill and Tina prepare to depart. As Act I closes, all of the characters are suddenly delayed and stranded at the airport because of the inclement weather.

Act 2[edit]

The time is during the night, just after the storm has "gotten worse" and 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 is shocked to find the Steward instead. The two of them agree to venture up to the heights of the control tower. The Flight Controller grapples with the lack of planes and verbally assaults the storm outside her tower. The Refugee tries to insinuate himself with the various women and gives them (at various points throughout the act) each a "magic stone" that he says will cure their individual travails. The women toast their good fortune and drink with the Refugee. Eventually, as the storm builds, the drunk women realize that the Refugee has given them all the same "magic stone" and turn on him in a fit of rage, knocking him unconscious and concealing his body within a trunk. Up above in the tower, Bill and the Steward engage in an explorative sexual affair.

Act 3[edit]

It is dawn; the storm has cleared, and every character reels from the events of the previous night. The controller announces the sudden arrival of a plane. Minskman has returned suddenly on the first available flight back, unable to continue without his wife at his side. When Tina learns of Bill's sexual encounter, she is enraged and angrily strikes him with the sex manual, knocking him unconscious as well. The Minskwoman suddenly goes into labor and delivers her baby in the terminal, just as the Refugee awakes from the trunk. 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 Immigration Officer finally catches up with the Refugee. The passengers divide into two camps, one demanding the arrest of the Refugee, with the other trying to persuade the Immigration Officer to "review the situation". The Immigration Officer is implacable, citing the need to observe the rules. The Refugee then tells his story, which explains why he has no documentation. His story touches the passengers, and also the Immigration Officer. The officer says that the Refugee cannot leave the terminal, but also that he will "turn a blind eye" and not arrest him.

With the storm cleared, Minskman and Minskwoman, with their new baby, fly to his new mission. Tina, taking the opportunity to start fresh with her husband Bill, go to their respective vacation destination. The Older Woman decides to venture out on a flight herself. The Steward and Stewardess make amends, each working on their respective flights. The opera ends with an enigmatic inquiry from the Controller to the Refugee.


The opera has been recorded commercially for Chandos, taken from the live Channel 4 television broadcast from Glyndebourne.[3]

Selected list of stagings[edit]

Date Venue Company Notes
24 September 1998 Glyndebourne Opera House Glyndebourne Touring Opera World premiere, production by Richard Jones
1999 Glyndebourne Opera House Glyndebourne Festival Opera Festival premiere with original cast, production by Richard Jones
November 2001 Rabotheater Hengelo [nl] Nationale Reisopera [nl] Netherlands stage premiere, production by Richard Jones[4]
February 2002 Flanders Opera (Vlaamse Opera) Vlaamse Opera, Ghent Belgium stage premiere, production by Richard Jones
8 June 2003 Webster University Opera Theatre of Saint Louis First US performance, production directed by Colin Graham.[5]
April 2004 Opernhaus, Leipzig Leipzig Opera First German production (sung in German translation)[6]
2005 Glyndebourne Glyndebourne Festival Opera Revival
2005 Shubert Theatre (Boston), Massachusetts Boston Lyric Opera production directed by Colin Graham[7]
3 March 2006 Adelaide Festival Theatre, Adelaide Festival, Australia Glyndebourne Opera Australian premiere,, production by Richard Jones, under the artistic direction of Brett Sheehy, winner of Australia's 2006 Helpmann Award for Best Opera.[8]
January 2008 CAPA Theater in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Pittsburgh Opera Center Performance by the resident and guest artists of the Pittsburgh Opera, directed by Kristine McIntyre[2]
September 2008 Peacock Theatre, London British Youth Opera Production directed by Martin Lloyd-Evans
April 2011 Long Center in Austin, Texas Austin Lyric Opera Directed by Kristine McIntyre
May 2015 Gerald W. Lynch Theater, New York Mannes Opera New York premiere[9]
June 2015 Holland Park Theatre, London Opera Holland Park London professional premiere staged by Stephen Barlow (director)[10]
November 2015 Boston Conservatory Theater, Boston, Massachusetts Boston Conservatory Jonathan Pape, director
February 2017 Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco Opera Parallèle Nicole Paiement, artistic director/conductor; Brian Staufenbiel, creative director
February 2017 Prinzregententheater, Munich, Germany Theaterakademie August Everding First German production of the original English version
April 2017 Orpheum Theatre (Omaha), Nebraska Opera Omaha James Darrah, director; Christopher Rountree, conductor
February 2018 Theatre Royal, Glasgow and Edinburgh Festival Theatre Scottish Opera Director: Stephen Barlow; designer: Andrew Riley; lighting designer: Richard Howell
March 2018 Susie Sainsbury Theatre Royal Academy of Music Director: Martin Duncan; conductor: Gareth Hancock; designer: Francis O'Connor
July 2018 Blank Performing Arts Center (Indianola, Iowa) Des Moines Metro Opera Kristine McIntyre, director; David Neely, conductor
April 2021 Museum of Flight, Tukwila, Washington[11] Seattle Opera Brian Staufenbiel, director; Viswa Subbaraman, conductor
January 2022 Capitol Theatre (Salt Lake City), Salt Lake City, Utah Utah Opera Director: Kristine McIntyre, Conductor: Robert Tweten [12]
June 2022 Royal College of Music, Kensington, London Royal College of Music Jeremy Sams, Director
September 2023 Oldenburgisches Staatstheater, Oldenburg (Oldb), Germany Oldenburgisches Staatstheater Director: Kobie van Rensburg
Conductor: Vito Cristofaro

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Tom Service (2005-08-15). "Flight". The Guardian. Retrieved 2016-12-05.
  2. ^ a b Jane Vranish (2008-01-24). "Opera Preview: Composer and librettist took a chance on airport layover saga". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 2016-12-05.
  3. ^ Matthew Rye (2004-06-14). "Classical CDs of the week: Jonathan Dove and more". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 2016-12-12.
  4. ^ Mischa Spel (2001-11-26). "Flight: een zeldzaam opgewekte opera". NRC Handelsblad (in Dutch). Archived from the original on 2016-12-20. Retrieved 2016-12-05.
  5. ^ Sarah Bryan Miller, Review of Flight. Financial Times, 7 July 2003.
  6. ^ Steffen Kühn (2004-04-10). "Flight: Jonathan Doves Oper in deutscher Erstaufführung". Leipzig Almanach (in German). Retrieved 2016-12-05.
  7. ^ The 40 Seasons of Boston Lyric Opera: A History Part III
  8. ^ Vivien Schweitzer and Matthew Westphal, "Australia's Helpmann Awards Name Winners". Playbill Arts, 2 August 2006.
  9. ^ Joanne Sydney Lessner (May 9, 2015). "Flight: New York City, Mannes Opera". Opera News.
  10. ^ "Opera Today reviews Opera Holland Park's Flight". 2015-06-07. Retrieved 2015-06-18.
  11. ^ May, Thomas (April 15, 2021). "How Seattle Opera Came to Film Its Newest Production at the Museum of Flight". The Seattle Times. Retrieved April 25, 2021.
  12. ^ "Utah Opera Announces 2021-22 Season". USUO. March 16, 2021. Retrieved September 21, 2022.

External links[edit]