My Lai: A Monodrama for tenor, string quartet, and Vietnamese instruments
Composed by Jonathan Berger
Libretto by Harriet Scott Chessman
Performed by Kronos Quartet, Rinde Eckert, & Vân-Ánh Võ
I wrote the libretto for this operatic piece, composed by Jonathan Berger. My Lai is about Hugh Thompson, the Army helicopter pilot in the Vietnam War who courageously intervened in the U.S. Army massacre of unarmed South Vietnamese civilians in the village of My Lai on March 16, 1968, only to be haunted for the rest of his life by that morning, and by his own government’s efforts to undermine his testimony.
“Fifty Years After the My Lai Massacre, An Opera Confronts the Past” — NPR Weekend Edition, Neda Ulaby
“My Lai”: BBC Interview with David Harrington (The Kronos Quartet) and Harriet Scott Chessman, by Robin Warren for the BBC
“My Lai Revisited: One Man’s Journey,” by Jacki Apple for FABRIK. “Chessman’s libretto is a brilliant montage of moments, snapshot flashes of images, bursts of emotions, slivers of repeating memories that ebb and flow in Thompson’s inner monolog as he confronts his own impending death.”
“The half-spoken, half-sung vocal writing moved in sometimes jagged, expressionistic intervals, the character’s recollections peppered with obscenities common to GI-speak, especially in the heat of battle. Chessman’s memory play mixes poetry, slang and hurt with fierce brilliance.”
For a glimpse of this collaboration, early on, click here.
Direction and set design by Mark DeChiazza and Rinde Eckert
Video design by Mark DeChiazza
Lighting design by Brian H. Scott
Commissioned by Harris Theater for Music and Dance with support from the Laura and Ricardo Rosenkranz Artistic Innovation Fund and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Gerbode-Hewlett Foundations 2013 Music Commissioning Awards initiative, and the National Endowment for the Arts.