Don't miss: Glory Denied at Nashville Opera A scene from Tom Cipullo's Glory Denied. Photo by Ellen Appel.

Don't miss: Glory Denied at Nashville Opera

Jenna Simeonov

This month, American composer Tom Cipullo sees his 2006 opera, Glory Denied, go up at Nashville Opera, November 11-13 at the Noah Liff Opera Center. With a libretto based on the oral history by Tom Philpott, the opera is based on the true story of Vietnam veteran Colonel Jim Thompson, America’s longest held prisoner of war.

Cipullo will also join the cast and creative team in Nashville Opera’s TALK BACK series, where they take questions from the audience following the performance. We spoke with Cipullo about the history of Glory Denied, the moments he loves most in his opera, and why he’s excited for its latest revival.

Why did you see the story of Col. Thompson as one that would lend itself well to opera?

For years, I had wanted to create a music drama that would address contemporary issues, one that would take ordinary people and place them in an extraordinary situation. This story, with all its suffering, heroism, selfishness, and dignity, struck me as completely and overwhelmingly operatic.

How did you imagine the musical aesthetic for Glory Denied? What does the music itself say about this story?

In its most straightforward moments, the music reflects the actions on stage in, I believe, a logical way. In the first act, In Captivity, where Colonel Thompson relives most of time as a POW, the music is more dissonant. When he returns home in Act II, the score becomes more blatantly tonal. For me, tonality is the tool that makes music most expressive and empathetic, and I felt I needed that for the final scenes. Though his time in Vietnam was excruciating, it really was his return to his homeland that was for Colonel Thompson so devastating, and I wanted the music to reflect that.

What do you look forward to with this revival at Nashville Opera?

The cast, orchestra, and crew are all sensational, so I very much look forward to what I know will be an extraordinary performance of my work. Also, director John Hoomes has some very exciting ideas about taking the show in a new direction, and I can’t wait to see his vision come to life on stage.

Do you have any favorite moments in the opera?

There’s a quartet at the end of the first act when many of the opera’s previous themes all come together that I’m very proud of. (Opera composers always get a thrill when an ensemble comes together in an exciting way.) Also, there are two arias in Act II for Older Thompson that I’m particularly fond of. One is the Catalogue Aria, listing all the changes that happened in America from 1964 to 1973, and the other occurs when Thompson speaks to the congregation at his church.

The moment I enjoy most though, is again in Act II, when Young Alyce sings a letter she has written to Young Jim after he is first stationed in Vietnam. The letter is filled with optimism and love, and it captures those small mundane details of life that so often touch our hearts most deeply.

Tom Cipullo, composer, Glory Denied.

For full details about Glory Denied, running at the Noah Liff Opera Center November 11-13, click here.

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