Glory Denied

Cast

Michael Mayes
Col. Jim Thompson

Creative

Creative Team
To Be Announced

Music & libretto: Tom Cipullo
Based on the book by Tom Philpott
Premiere Date: May 5, 2007, Brooklyn College Opera Theater, Brooklyn

America’s longest-held prisoner of war dreams of coming home. But home is a place he will not recognize. Tom Cipullo’s Glory Denied explores the gut-wrenching saga of Col. Jim Thompson as he transitions from the jungles of Southeast Asia to the tree-lined streets of suburban America. Based on interviews collected for the 2001 chronicle by Tom Philpott, the opera Glory Denied pays witness to one soldier’s journey, and to the war raging within the hearts and minds of countless returning veterans.

Performed in English with English supertitles

Hertz Stage at the Woodruff Arts Center

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Get the Feeling

Photos by Duane Tinkey for Des Moines Metro Opera

Listen to Glory Denied

Synopsis

Act I

Colonel Floyd James Thompson (Jim), America’s longest-held prisoner of war, looks back on his years as a captive.  He sees himself as a young man and recalls episodes from his nine-year ordeal; escape attempts, torture, the overwhelming loneliness of four years in solitary confinement, being forced to sign a propaganda statement.  Through it all, he finds the strength to survive in memories of his wife and family.  He recalls every letter his beloved Alyce sent to him before his capture.

As Thompson thinks on his idealized wife, Alyce receives the news that his surveillance plane has been shot down.  Filled with fear and bitterness, she soon begins a relationship with another man (Harold), eventually moving in with him and telling the children that their father has died.  Alyce denies permission for Jim’s name to be released to the public, not even for one of the P. O. W. bracelets that were common at the time.  She consults a lawyer in an effort to have him declared legally dead.

As the act nears its conclusion, Thompson finds comfort in the 23rd Psalm as themes from the opera swirl around him.  On his last word (“forever”), he is freed from prison, and a reunion with Alyce, inevitable and tragic, awaits.

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Act II

Scene 1

The P.O.Ws are released and Jim returns home.  The Pentagon announces another man, a Navy pilot, as the longest-held prisoner.  Excerpts from the Paris Peace Accords interrupt the pre-war memories of Jim and Alyce.  Jim reads a letter of welcome from President Nixon, the text noting ominously that “Some things about America may appear to have changed since your departure.”  Alyce meets Jim and confesses.  She offers to disappear if that is what he wants, but only after he hears her out.  Jim decides to attempt a reconciliation.  He notes how the nation has become different during his ordeal, at first mentioning improvements in material items and civil rights, but inevitably concluding with disdain for the new permissiveness and for his wife’s infidelity.   Soon, the couple begins to fight, and Jim complains, “You’re not the Alyce I left.”  For her part, Alyce asserts her independence, refusing to be the docile obedient wife.  She tells of what her life was like during his absence, of the callous behavior of neighbors and family, of late- night crank calls from malicious strangers, of her fear and loneliness.

Jim visits the church where he and Alyce were married and speaks to the congregation.  He tells how he survived his ordeal, stressing his “faith in God, country, and the love of a good woman.”  Alyce too, both young and old, speaks simply of how she survived.  Afterwards, Jim tells Alyce that he has come to forgive her, that all his bitterness is gone.  Alyce responds that she “doesn’t give a shit if he forgives her or not.”  The scene nears its conclusion as Alyce asks, “What have I done that calls for forgiveness?”

Scene 2

Jim (Older) sits alone in his study.  He has separated from Alyce for good.  Illness has ended his military career.  He asks himself over and over “What to do today?”  He finds consolation in the phrase “One day at a time,” just as he did when he was a prisoner.  Jim tries to stay positive and confident, but bitter feelings keep intruding.  He struggles to forgive, but concludes “everyone else had a bracelet.”

Courtesy of Tom Cipullo

Characters & Cast

Col. Jim Thompson

America’s longest-held prisoner of war

Michael Mayes

Baritone Michael Mayes returns to The Atlanta Opera after singing the role of Joseph De Rocher in Dead Man Walking during the 2018-19 season.

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Newbie Guide

Sponsored by the Molly Blank Fund of the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation

The Discoveries series

The Discoveries series is dedicated to audience members who are seeking new works, new ideas and fresh perspectives. These are not your standard operas.

Locations

As part of The Opera’s effort to bring opera to new audiences all over Atlanta, these productions are performed in exciting alternative venues that we don’t traditionally perform opera in.

Supertitles

Many operas are in a foreign language. Supertitles are similar to subtitles in a film, except they are projected above the stage. These translations will help you follow what’s happening on stage.

What to Wear

There is no dress code at The Opera and you will see everything from jeans to evening gowns and formal suits. Most people use it as a chance to enjoy dressing up in their own style.

Arriving in Good Time

If you are late, you will have to sit the first act in the back and then in the intermission ushers will show you to your seat. Plan ahead to arrive with extra time.

Directions to Discoveries series Venues

Enhance Your Visit

Backstory

Discoveries series performances include events either before or after the performance. As part of the Backstory program, these experiences allow audience members to learn more about the opera, open a conversation around important topics, and participate with the cast in conversation, dancing, and many other formats. Free for ticket holders.

Familiarizing Yourself with the Story

Because of the foreign languages, classical music, and often complex plots, you will very likely enjoy the performance better if you spend a few minutes familiarizing yourself with the story and characters in advance. Some people even like to listen to the music in advance and others prefer to let it wash over them during the show and perhaps look it up afterwards.

Composer

Tom Cipullo (b. 1956)

Hailed by the American Academy of Art & Letters for music that displays “inexhaustible imagination, wit, expressive range and originality,” composer Tom Cipullo’s works are performed regularly throughout the United States and with increasing frequency internationally.  The winner of a 2012 Guggenheim Fellowship, the 2013 Sylvia Goldstein Award from Copland House, and the 2013 Arts & Letters Award from the American Academy, Mr. Cipullo has received commissions from Music of Remembrance, SongFest, Joy in Singing, the Cecilia Chorus, the New York Festival of Song, the Mirror Visions Ensemble, Sequitur, Cantori New York, tenor Paul Sperry, mezzo-soprano Mary Ann Hart, the Five Boroughs Music Festival, pianist Jeanne Golan, soprano Martha Guth, soprano Hope Hudson, the Walt Whitman Project, baritone Jesse Blumberg, and many others.   He has received multiple fellowships from Yaddo, the MacDowell Colony, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and awards from the Liguria Study Center (Bogliasco, Italy), the Fundacion Valparaiso (Spain), the Oberpfaelzer Kuenstlerhaus (Bavaria), and ASCAP.  The New York Times has called his music “intriguing and unconventional,” and The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has called him “an expert in writing for the voice.”  Other honors include the Minneapolis Pops New Orchestral Repertoire Award (2009) for Sparkler, the National Association of Teachers of Singing Art Song Award (2008) for the song-cycle Of a Certain Age, and the Phyllis Wattis Prize for song composition from the San Francisco Song Festival for Drifts & Shadows (2006).
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Mr. Cipullo is the composer of two operas.  The most recent, After Life, was commissioned by Music of Remembrance and premiered by that organization in Seattle and San Francisco in 2014.  Glory Denied (2007), after the book by journalist Tom Philpott, is based on the true story of America’s longest-held prisoner of war.  The piece has already received five full productions, including a recent run of ten performances with the acclaimed Fort Worth Opera.  In addition, Opera Memphis, Chelsea Opera, Opera Idaho, and Vulcan Lyric Opera will mount productions in 2015 and 2016.  Critical reception to the opera has been enthusiastic.  The July 2013 issue of Opera News called the piece “intimate in its presentation…and epic in its scope and effect,” citing the work as “tense, nervous, and gripping theater.”  The Fort Worth Star Telegram called Glory Denied “a powerful drama of great music and acting intensity,” Fort Worth Weekly  cited it as “a powerfully realistic thriller and an abashedly honest commentary on the America of the 1960s and 70s,” and D Magazine recognized the work as “an intimate operatic  masterpiece.”  Theater Jones called Glory Denied “horrifying, riveting, involving, shocking, inspiring, overwhelming, appalling, and devastating – in that order.”  A production by the UrbanArias company in Arlington, Virginia (2011) was reviewed by The Washington Post.  Under a headline that exclaimed “Vietnam-Era Saga Glory Denied Doesn’t Withhold a Single Musical Wish,” the Post praised a “luminous score that offered vivid embodiments of the protagonist’s mental states.”
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