Simanaitis Says

On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff


A RECENT mention of the John Adams opera Nixon in China ( got me thinking of other links of aviation and opera. One of today’s links is a classic, two are based on actual events, another is a pure happening.


L’italiana in Algeri, The Italian Girl in Algiers, 1813, by Gioachino Rossini, has played in aviation’s Golden Age. Image from, Calgary, Alberta, 2013.

Gioachino Rossini’s Italian girl in Algiers was shipwrecked. However, with Robert Innes Hopkins’ 2002 set design, originally for the Santa Fe Opera, she’s an aviatrix in the 1930s, the Golden Age of Aviation.

Isabella is a feisty gal who crash-lands her biplane on the Algerian coast.  In Rossini grand comedic style, she gets the better of Mustafà, the Bey of Algiers, and chooses her beloved Lindoro over yet a third suitor, the bumbling Taddeo.


Image from The Italian Girl in Algiers, Pittsburgh Opera, 2009.

Our local (and late lamented) Opera Pacific staged L’italiana in Algeri in 2006 with the Hopkins sets. Since then, Isabella’s biplane has popped up on a number of opera stages, among them in Atlanta, Calgary, Kansas City, Pittsburgh and San Francisco.

The modern English opera Flight, music by Jonathan Dove and libretto by April De Angeles, is based on true life. Mehran Karimi Nasseri, who came to be known as Sir, Alfred, was an Iranian refugee forced to live in the departure lounge of Terminal One, Charles de Gaulle Airport, Paris, from August 26, 1988, until July 2006. With complications a’plenty, including the Iran/Iraq war, 1980 – 1988, and a lack of documentation, Nasseri was, in effect, a man without a country.

Nasseri’s airport isolation was the basis for Jonathan Dove’s opera, Flight, which premiered in 1998 with the Glyndebourne Touring Opera, and also a Stephen Spielberg/Tom Hanks movie, The Terminal, 2004, Nasseri also co-authored an autobiography.


The Terminal Man, by Mehran “Sir, Alfred” Nasseri, Corgi Book, 2004.

The Dove opera has been performed at Glyndebourne Festival, England, St. Louis in the U.S. and Adelaide in Australia. Other productions have been staged in Belgium, Germany and The Netherlands, with another scheduled for London’s Opera Holland Park in June, 2015.


Flight, by Jonathan Dove. Image from

Flight takes place in the departure lounge of an unspecified airport. Its ten characters include the Refugee, Immigration Officer and Controller who interact with others passing through the terminal over the course of one day and the following morning.

Many of these encounters are comedic, with Dove’s music having flavors of Bernstein’s or Sondheim’s. The Refugee’s quandary, though, is a dramatic one, its strangeness heightened by the role being sung by a countertenor, the male equivalent of a female mezzo-soprano.

Dove also arranged part of the score into an orchestral work, Airport Scenes, which has been compared to Pacific 231, Arthur Honegger’s homage to the steam locomotive. See “Trains and Music,”, for more on the Honegger work.

The opera Flight, performed by the Glyndebourne Festival Opera, can be seen in its entirety at For a sampling, is a video of its Act I finale, as performed by the British Youth Opera.

De Wereld Draait Door, literally “The World Keeps Turning,” figuratively “The World is Going Crazy,” is a Dutch television show with an occasionally experimental bent.


De Wereld Draait Door, The Netherlands,

Its 1-Minute Opera Vlucht MH-370 (performed, as the series title implies, in one minute) is a dramatic account of an Air Traffic Controller’s last communication with Malaysia Airlines flight 370. Its crash still a mystery, MH-370 disappeared from radar contact on March 8, 2014, less than an hour after takeoff on a scheduled flight from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing, China.


Vlucht MH-370, Nora Fischer, Martijn Sanders, Dudok Quartet,

In Vlucht MH-370, the Air Traffic Controller is seen in the foreground; her string accompanists directly behind her, a radar screen and MH-370’s captain projected on a screen behind them.

“MH-370,” she sings, calmly at first, “why the westward turn?” In the next 30 seconds she grows increasingly concerned. The 1-minute opera ends dramatically with her singing, “Are you there?” The captain responds, “Allright.”

Then, “Are you there?” followed by “Allright, goodnight.”

A most dramatic opera, all in one minute 17 seconds.


Sky Airline,, named the Best Regional Airline in South America in the 2014 Skytrax World Airline Awards.

To conclude on a decidedly lighter note, see what happened on Thursday, March 13, 2014, board Chile’s Sky Airline Flight 145 from Iquique (IQQ) to Santiago (SCL): ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2015

One comment on “OPERA AND AVIATION

  1. Victor Ceicys
    February 12, 2015

    Flights of fantasy with soaring songs and librettos!

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