Heart of a Soldier based on Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist James B. Stewart’s acclaimed book and the life stories of Susan Rescorla, Rick Rescorla and Daniel J. Hill. A true story of military combat, love, friendship and heroism culminating with the devastating terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center”
San Francisco Opera today announced details of Heart of a Soldier, a new opera by composer Christopher Theofanidis with a libretto by Donna DiNovelli, starring baritone Thomas Hampson, tenor William Burden and soprano Melody Moore. Commissioned by San Francisco Opera, Heart of a Soldier is based on the critically acclaimed non-fiction book of the same name by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist James B. Stewart and the life stories of Susan Rescorla, Rick Rescorla and Daniel J. Hill. The announcement was made at a press conference by San Francisco Opera General Director David Gockley and members of the opera’s creative team, including Christopher Theofanidis, Donna DiNovelli, Patrick Summers, Francesca Zambello, James B. Stewart and Susan Rescorla.
Heart of a Soldier will premiere on Saturday, September 10, 2011—the eve of the tenth anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks—as part of the Company’s 2011–12 repertory season. San Francisco Opera Artistic Adviser Francesca Zambello will direct this world premiere production and San Francisco Opera Principal Guest Conductor Patrick Summers will lead the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and Chorus.
A story of war, love, friendship and heroism, Heart of a Soldier reflects on the extraordinary true story of Rick Rescorla, a man trained to be a consummate warrior who gave up his own life saving thousands in the attacks on September 11, 2001. Inspired by the American soldiers he saw as a boy in Cornwall, England preparing to launch the Normandy invasion on what became D,Day, and his adult friendship with American fighting man Dan Hill, whom he meets in war,torn Rhodesia, Rescorla emigrates to the United States in the early 1960s to become a soldier and a “Yank,” ultimately becoming a decorated platoon leader during the Vietnam War.
On September 11, 2001, as head of security for Morgan Stanley at Two World Trade Center, Rescorla is thrown to the floor when United Airlines Flight 175 crashes into the South Tower. Amidst the unimaginable chaos that ensues, Rescorla uses his commanding presence and booming voice to literally sing his colleagues down smoke,filled stairs and out of the building. While he successfully evacuates all of his company’s 2,700 employees from the South Tower before it collapses, Rescorla makes the ultimate sacrifice when he goes back into the building to search for stragglers. Heart of a Soldier is an opera about a hero who disdains that very term, and about his deep friendship with an American soldier, so unlike him in approach and yet so similar in dedication and bravery.
For nearly a decade I have been hoping to commission an opera from the brilliantly talented Christopher Theofanidis,” stated David Gockley. “When there finally was a window of opportunity at Houston Grand Opera, I changed jobs and preliminary plans for Heart of a Soldier had to be put on hold. Once in San Francisco, I felt the opportunity to commission this work in observation of the tenth anniversary of the tragic events of 9/11 — and the commitment of Tom Hampson to create the lead role— gave the project critical mass. On the surface the piece is about what it takes to be a true hero, but what will drive the music is the passion, the suspense and the ultimate tragedy.”