When my inexperienced mind approaches the art form of opera, I think of the music from “Carmen,” a mysterious masked man singing from the depths of a theatre and that one episode of “SpongeBob” where he turns out to be an opera prodigy. Opera, only due to my lack of exposure, has never seemed to me a medium in which to tell modern stories. Last night, Jonathan Dove & April De Angelis’ new work “Flight” attempted to prove this uninformed theory wrong.
Relatable Setting and Ambitious Story
The show opens on a nearly empty airplane terminal. An expertly crafted set completely captures the empty and uncomfortable feeling you get from a nearly vacant airport at the break of dawn. On the stage are the Airport Controller (Abigail Rethwisch) and the Refugee (John Holiday). The latter has been living at the airport for weeks now avoiding the cold and unforgiving Immigration Officer (Seth Keeton).
As the narrative continues, it follows the interactions between seven strangers who are each anticipating impending adventures. Unfortunately, as is so common with air travel, a storm begins to brew and the strangers find themselves stranded and unable to travel. “Flight” ambitiously tried to tell each of these characters’ stories. Childbirth, abandonment, sexual exploration and secrecy are all explored throughout the production.
However, due to this ambition, much of the story felt flat and repetitive. The issues of the characters, while inherently interesting, were not individually given enough focus to really explore anything of actual depth. With a run time of two hours and forty minutes, not including two twenty-minute intermissions, this flat storyline caused for a long night.
Carried by the Cast
It must be addressed that the vocal talent and ability produced by the cast was nothing short of phenomenal. Each of their voices were undeniably power and beautiful. “Flight” was at its absolute best when the entire cast would harmonize together and generate music that sent chills up my spine. I wish their talent was matched by their written character arcs, which unfortunately just did not do it for me. I would love to see this same cast in a show with a more compelling narrative.
It appeared I was not alone in this sentiment. During intermissions the audience began to thin as folks exited, unwilling to continue their journey with “Flight.” Three hours of opera is not for the faint hearted. Still, “Flight” housed some truly beautiful moments. These moments may have been sprinkled in between a lot of shallow mundanities, but they were beautiful nonetheless. An infinitely talented cast carried what felt like an unremarkable story and gave “Flight” something to stick around for.
As the curtain closed, I was unsure if opera is the proper medium to tell a story of multiple worlds colliding as ambitious as this one. However, “Flight” did spark a curiosity in the stories the form can tell. If you’ve got plenty of air-miles, “Flight” is a journey worth taking. But, if you’re saving them up for something special, it may be best to let this one pass you by.
More information about “Flight” performances dates and tickets can be found here.