07 Jan 2022

A Message from The Pilot about “Flight”

by Kristine McIntyre

Flight” is a unique opera in many ways. While many operas deal with classic Greek tragedies, gods and goddesses, pointed 18th-century social satire, royalty, forbidden love, and dying sopranos—this one deals with… a delayed flight? 

Before you exchange your tickets for “Tosca” or “The Pirates of Penzance,” let us assure you that an airport is a perfect setting for an opera. It’s filled with strangers who—while they only see a certain facet of each other at first—all bring complicated main character energy, caught up in their own, intense melodrama. Eventually, of course, they all become entangled in each other’s lives. There’s no one better to sell this voyage of an opera to you than our very own “pilot,” stage director Kristine McIntyre—read her take on this modern masterpiece: 

When I was quite young, my grandmother and I would travel on planes together. Often it was just to visit family in Florida or Chicago, sometimes to go back east for the summer, but to me they were like adventures to another world. I was that kid with my face pressed up against the glass, watching the planes take off. I collected wings from the different airlines and loved talking to pilots. I was sure that the plane would land not in Illinois but somewhere truly spectacular and that getting there was part of the fun. Although it seems almost inconceivable in this age of endless weather delays and TSA pat downs, air travel was once a great adventure that promised limitless possibilities.  

photo credit: Des Moines Metro Opera

This unbound future is what draws all of the characters in “Flight”. For them, travel is not only about transportation, it is actually about reinvention. Whether seeking to rekindle a marriage on the rocks, start a new career or pursue a holiday romance, this story is ultimately about our constant human need to recreate ourselves and our relationships. The terminal in which the travelers become stuck serves as a crossroads where their lives and dreams and fears intersect with one another. As the storm becomes more intense, so do their troubles, the outer turmoil of nature reflecting the human dramas within.  

What is so fascinating about “Flight” is that each of the characters undertakes a personal, spiritual journey without ever leaving the terminal.  In spite of, or perhaps because of, the storm that grounds them, all of their hopes for the future literally take flight. In the course of one long day and night, everything seems to happen to them: amnesia, birth, death, marital separation, sexual exploration, grief, and the discovery of their shared humanity. They seem to undergo the entirety of human experience in a few short, concentrated hours, rebounding from comedy to tragedy and back again. This ping-ponging of emotion is one of the great joys of the piece and the thing that I find truest about its storytelling.  

In the end, the travelers express themselves most profoundly in their defense of the Refugee. In recognizing the need of the weakest in their company, they rise above their individual situations and demonstrate their common humanity. What surprises and delights us is not only this act of solidarity but the unexpected compassion it inspires in the Immigration Officer. That each of us is capable of pity and of true change is one of the ideas that lingers long after the travelers have finally taken off to their destinations and their new, and we hope improved, lives.  

This will be the most exciting layover you have ever experienced. Book your tickets for “Flight” today.