Thursday, June 14, 2018

An opera about a court-martial

Anthony Thommasini of The New York Times has written this strong and quite positive review of the opera "An American Soldier," concerning the suicide of U.S. Army Private Danny Chen and the ensuing court-martial. It's playing in St. Louis.

No review is complete with some criticism:
One late scene struck me as a miscalculation. At the trial, after the sergeant is cleared of the most serious charges, the judge (the earthy bass Nathan Stark) and a chorus of male and female soldiers sing “E pluribus unum; from the many, one.” With music that hints of Copland, Mr. [David Henry] Huang tries to rescue the trope of the affirming American anthem from triteness. But especially given the political climate of today, with anti-immigrant hostility being stoked by a divisive administration in Washington, it was hard to know what to make of this attempt at redemption. I wanted more bitterness and irony.
Can you think of another opera that concerns military justice? Benjamin Britten's Billy Budd and the more obscure My Lai come to mind. There is also an Overture to The Andersonville Trial, about the notorious Confederate prison camp.

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