There are no heroes in the opera, only ordinary people whose lives were inexorably changed forever by war.
Cipullo was inspired to create the chamber opera after reading a New York Times review of Tom Philpott’s 2001 book Glory Denied. It is the true story of Floyd James “Jim” Thompson, a Green Beret who retired from the Army with the rank of colonel in 1982. Thompson was held in captivity nearly nine years, in camps and prisons in South Vietnam, Laos, and North Vietnam. But unlike most returning POWs, Thompson didn’t come home to a hero’s welcome. Only his wife Alyce was there to greet him, and a part of her had hoped he was long dead.
Philpott interviewed 160 people and included the voices of 90 of them in his book. For his opera, Cipullo focuses only on Jim and Alyce, although four characters portray them in youth and middle age. There are no heroes in the opera, only ordinary people whose lives were inexorably changed forever by war.
Thompson was an all-American boy; God and country were important to him. He married young and was the father of three daughters. Alyce was pregnant with their fourth child when he deployed for a six-month tour of duty in Vietnam in December 1963. The observation plane in which he was a passenger was shot down on March 26, 1964. The next day, Alyce was informed that her husband was missing, and the shock sent her into labor. Their son was born that evening.
Older Jim was not an endearing character in real life, and Cipullo doesn’t sugarcoat him in the opera. There was no term then for what was going on inside his head, however, as the words Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder were not used until 1980, seven years after he had returned from Vietnam.
-Rick Peridian for Classical Voice North America