A new opera is making its way to the greater Berea and Cleveland area.
Held as a prisoner of war for nearly a decade during the Vietnam War, Jim Thompson’s story will be portrayed this Fall Semester by the Baldwin Wallace’s Voice and Opera Program.
Each year, a group of music faculty at BW meet and select a piece for the fall opera production. This year, Tom Cipullo’s “Glory Denied,” a two-act chamber opera taking place after Thompson returns to America, was chosen. Upon Thompson’s return, he soon realizes that the environment he once knew has drastically changed.
Scott Skiba, professor and director of opera studies at BW who took part in the selection process, said when choosing music for the curriculum, BW’s Voice and Opera Program aims to “expose students to different styles [of opera], showcase talents, and challenge them to grow.”
Skiba felt inspired to choose “Glory Denied” after hearing a particular piece from the show. He had first come to know the opera through the aria “My Darling Jim.”
“The song is beautiful and poignant,” said Skiba.
BW students occupy the four roles in the cast of the opera. Because the show is a contemporary, rather than classic, opera, the students involved with the show were able to benefit from communication with the opera’s creator, Cipullo. Actors in the show, said Skiba, were given the opportunity to video conference with the composer to gain a deeper understanding of the work.
“You can’t video call Mozart,” said Skiba.
Kailyn Martino, an actress portraying Young Alice in the opera, finds it “special to portray characters who are real people.” Martino supplemented her study of the character by reading the book the opera is based off: “Glory Denied: The Vietnam Saga of Jim Thompson, America’s Longest-Held Prisoner of War” by Tom Philpott.
“I was able to read a biography about the characters,” she said, “and connect with the story.”
Martino has found many aspects of the opera to be relevant to today’s audiences. She finds that when Jim returns home he finds the country in a polarized state.
“America was divided at the time,” said Martino, “which makes it relevant to today.”
In addition to seeing parallel conditions between the setting of “Glory Denied” and the polarized political climate of the U.S. today, Martino also discovered significant global issues through her character.
“Alice learns how to fight her own battles,” she said. “It was during the time of the women’s movement, which is another reason that makes it relevant to today.”
The show length of “Glory Denied” is friendly for first-time viewers of opera, said Skiba.
“It’s brief—an 80-minute opera,” he said. “It’s digestible.”
The first show will be held on Friday, Oct. 19 at 7 p.m. in Red Space, an event venue in Cleveland, Ohio. The second show will be held on Sunday, Oct. 21 at 5 p.m. in Gamble Auditorium in the Kulas Musical Arts Building at BW’s Conservatory of Music. All BW students with a BW student I.D. can receive tickets for free.