Heart of a Soldier

Rick Rescorla (1939-2001) Heart of a Soldier(Photo: San Francisco Opera)
Rick Rescorla (1939-2001) Heart of a Soldier(Photo: San Francisco Opera)

The San Francisco Opera has commissioned a new work called Heart of a Soldier. The music is by American composer Christopher Theofanidis. The libretto by Donna DiNovelli is based on a non fiction book of the same title by James Stewart. The opera will be conducted by Patrick Summers and produced and staged by Francesca Zambello. Thomas Hampson, William Burden and Melody Moore are in the cast.  Opening night is September 10th.

Those are the facts.

James Stewart’s Heart of a Soldier tells two stories. That of a deep friendship between two soldiers, Dan Hill and Rick Rescorla, and later the marriage of Rick and Susan Greer Rescorla.

Rick and Dan are two grunts in Vietnam. Dan is career military.   He fights in Afghanistan against the Russians and becomes a Muslim. Rick retires, marries and becomes head of security for Morgan Stanley in New York. Morgan Stanley occupies several floors in the south tower of the World Trade Center. And it is Rick Rescorla, 62, who leads hundred of his colleagues down the stairs to safety on 9/11-goes back into the building for more, and never comes out.

Francesca Zambello calls this story inherently operatic. Indeed she places the friendship between Dan and Rick as a Greek tragedy-Orestes and Pylades. She makes the point that” there are no love stories for middle-aged people in opera, except Wotan and Erda.” She’s right. Rick Rescorla and Susan Greer  each have adult children when they meet in 1998. They had three years together.

I haven’t heard a note of this opera. I know and deeply admire Francesca Zambello’s work. Christopher Theofanidis has flown under my radar (my bad).  His orchestral work Rainbow Body is beautiful and compelling. I haven’t yet read Stewart’s book-its waiting for me at the Whetstone library. I suspect I shan’t put it down.  I imagine the book is filled with adventure and love and grief.  Surely there’s no disrespect toward Mrs. Rescorla in saying that the ingredients for a passionate opera are in place-with the facts.

Here is Susan Greer Rescorla at a press conference announcing Heart of a Soldier

The opera will be broadcast during the San Francisco run for commercial release.  I’ll have more to say about this new opera later on.

Meanwhile, see www.rickrescorla.com