Opera Scotland

Volo di notte Night Flight

Music

Luigi Dallapiccola (born Pisino d'Istria, 3 February 1904; died Florence, 19 February 1975)

Text

The composer

Source

Novella Vol de nuit (1931) by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1900-1944).

 

Premières

First performance: Florence (Teatro della Pergola), 18 May 1940.

First UK performance: Glasgow (King's Theatre), 29 May 1963.

First performance in Scotland: As above.

Scottish Opera première: As above.

 

Background

Dallapiccola, born in what is now Slovenia, spent his adult life in Florence, composing largely in a modernist, serial style. The first of his post-war operas, Il prigioniero, of 1949, has been consistently quite successful, with several productions in Britain, including one the Florentines brought to Edinburgh in 1969. Of his later works, Job (1950) has not yet reached Britain, and Ulisse (1968), the only full length work,  has only had a studio performance by the BBC. Volo di notte is an earlier piece, and more conservativwe in approach. It is, however, very rarely performed. Perhaps, now that its subject-matter is almost as remote as the Wild West, it may be time to have another look at it.

The author of the source book, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry is perhaps most famous for his fable The Little Prince. However he was obsessed by flying, writing an excellent book, Wind, Sand and Stars, and had personal experience of flying conditions in Latin America. He himself died in mysterious circumstances, when his plane came down in the Mediterranean.

 

Main Characters

Rivière, an airline manager (bass)

Radio operator (tenor)

Madame Fabien, a pilot's wife (soprano)

Pellerin, a pilot (tenor)

 

Plot Summary

The opera takes place in the control room of the airport at Buenos Aires, at a time when an airline, run by Rivière, is experimenting with a new form of flying by night to speed up the recently introduced airmail services to Europe. Three flights meet at Buenos Aires and a new aircraft, with all the collected mail aboard, sets off northbound. Rivière himself is able to follow the progress of the flights, with news being relayed by the radio operator. Madame Fabien, wife of a pilot, is waiting anxiously for her husband's arrival. On this occasion, the weather over South America is bad, and Pellerin, flying in from Chile, only just makes it across the Andes. The second flight, flying from Patagonia in the deep south, encounters serious problems, communicated by its pilot, who is Fabien. The tension builds as he struggles through the stormy weather, running dangerously short of fuel. At last, having decided to crash land he discovers that he is now off course, out over the ocean. Aware that he is doomed, he flies up above the clouds and gazes at the stars until his fuel runs out. The third flight from Paraguay, further north and away from the storm, lands safely. Rivière decides that even with only two-thirds of its cargo, the flight for Europe must set off.

The Cast

First Official
 
Fourth Official
 
Inspector Robineau
 
Leroux
 an elderly foreman
Mrs Fabien
 a pilot's wife
Pellerin
 a pilot
Radio Telegraphist
 
Rivière
 Director of a South American airline
Second Official
 
Third Official
 
Voice
 

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