Opera Review: Heart of a Soldier

As part of my new high class (living in San Francisco) lifestyle, I went to the San Francisco Opera. I’ve never been to the opera before and really didn’t have any desire to go (it just didn’t seem like my thing), but my girlfriend has season tickets and wanted to take me along for a show. This year there was a new Opera, just commissioned, called Heart of a Soldier and with me being a bit of a military buff, she thought I’d enjoy it. To make a long story short, no one seemed to much enjoy it, let alone me.

Note: It’s an opera about September 11th. I’m not even going to bother saying “Spoiler warning”

Let me start off by making sure that you, the reader, understands I’m a total opera newbie. I don’t know jack about opera. Never been to one, never listened to it at home, never really had an interest. In fact, I’m not really one for most high class activities (like opera, ballet, etc). I was quite upset at the opera when the ushers yelled at me for “No late seating”. I understand that no one wants to be interrupted during the performance, but some of us have to use the restrooms. My girlfriend says I’m a cretin; that I should have known better. So there you go.

As to the opera itself… I thought that “Heart of a Soldier” meant it was a story about one or more soldiers. This is not the case. It is a story about a dude (Rick Rescorla) who was head of security for Morgan Stanley during 9/11. He had been a soldier and an officer, and ran security drills with the Morgan Stanley personnel. This, combined with his quick thinking during the attacks, saved the lives of all but 13 of the 2700 Morgan Stanley employees. Rick, on the other hand, had gone back in to help and died when the towers collapsed (obviously, otherwise there wouldn’t be an opera about it).

This is a really powerful story and took the entire second half of the opera. The problem is that the entire first half of the opera was devoted to pointing out to you that this guy was a soldier. Over. And Over. And Over again. I got the feeling that the composer (Christopher Theofanidis) wrote the 9/11 half of the opera and then thought to himself “Well, this isn’t long enough to be a full show… what can I do to make it longer?” and then promptly set about fluffing in the entire first half.

I’d also point out that the music and story don’t mesh… at all. If you ask 3 people, they’ll give you 3 different responses as to how the music/story interact (e.g. “The music got in the way of the story”, “The story got in the way of the music”, or “The music didn’t add anything to the story”) but the short version is they didn’t work. There were several “good” sections of music/story mesh in the second half, but that can also be attributed to it being the finale of the show. It adds more to my theory about the second half being what the composer wanted to write and the first half being… wasted time.

In closing, if you like the story and want to know more than my three sentence run down, you can buy the bookHeart of a Soldier” in paperback or on the Kindle. The opera was based on the book, so the book will give you the story you want without the opera filler. If you want to go see a good opera… go see something else.

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