Lammermuir Festival > News > 1000 Airplanes join Concorde in her hangar!

1000 Airplanes join Concorde in her hangar! - Lammermuir Festival

The last time I saw an opera by Philip Glass was his Orphée at Covent Garden. After a while you think – blimey, when is this chord sequence going to change? How do the musicians manage to keep playing the same repeated note-pattern so perfectly over and over again, and do they actually go into a state of zen-like higher emptiness with the mental effort of avoiding being the plonker who changes to the next chord a bar early? But then, slowly, inexorably, you get drawn in. Drawn in to the music, which at times has a mesmerising luminosity, and at others a terrifying energy – and sucked right in to the drama through the music. Glass is a theatrical genius. His ‘minimalist’ music has a strangely compelling dramatic power, and the way he can ratchet up the tension towards an overwhelming dénouement is masterly.

Glass’s theatrical works are often, like Orphée or Akhnaten, centred on mythic or historical figures and his music lends itself to ritualistic drama and abstract concepts. He’s also fascinated by science fiction, which is where 1000 Airplanes on the Roof comes in. It’s not an opera in the normal sense, more a melodrama, with just one character, ‘M’, played by an actor, and a soprano singer. There’s nothing ‘normal’ in the story – paranormal would be more like it – of this man who has had a close encounter with aliens and is desperately grappling with the trauma of something that might, or might not, have happened to him. James Brining, our director, says we’re taking a “leap into the unknown” with this “unpredictable white-knuckle ride to the outer reaches of musical and theatrical form”. And at the Lammermuir Festival The National Theatre of Scotland is doing it in exactly the setting, an aircraft hangar, that Glass wrote it for – one of the rare occasions that’s been possible – in the sleek, brooding shadow of that great monument to technological experiment and human aspiration, Concorde. This will be the happening of the year!

Here’s what you might call the ‘overture’:

Hugh Macdonald – Director, Lammermuir Festival