Entertainment Music

Evaluation: An Opera About Drones Brings a Pilot’s Warfare Residence

29grounded hltb facebookJumbo

Eric, for one factor, stays a cipher. His arias really feel extra like the results of post-workshop notes — “flesh out Jess’s husband” — than emotional crucial or significance to the plot. Whereas the tenor Joseph Dennis is affable within the position, his chemistry with D’Angelo is nil. Moreover the messianic Coach, the stylized characters of the drone operation — the Commander; Jess’s teenage companion, the Sensor; and the “kill chain,” amplified over loudspeakers from offstage — are insufficiently vivid.

And whereas Jess’s ambivalence and troubles are clearly depicted, the storytelling, particularly within the second act, is just too busy to construct the mandatory claustrophobia, regardless of D’Angelo’s expertise and earnest dedication. “Grounded” ought to come as a sobering shock, with the laser-guided horror of a Tomahawk, however for all of the touches of churning darkness within the music, it’s oddly mild.

In Mayer’s swiftly shifting if not fairly elegant staging, a lot of Mimi Lien’s set is dominated by LED screens. The projections have been designed by Kaitlyn Pietras and Jason H. Thompson, who did related work on the triptych “Proximity,” which premiered earlier this yr at Lyric Opera of Chicago.

On the screens, in spectacular excessive definition, we see blue skies speeding previous, nighttime mountains, a sonogram, the grayish desert panorama noticed from above by the Reaper drone’s pitiless eye. And we see the Reaper stretched throughout the stage, as rivetingly chilly as an empire vessel in “Star Wars.” On our first encounter with it, there’s even a shiver of sinister John Williams in Tesori’s rating.

But it’s a little pat to explain “Grounded” — as Peter Gelb, the Met’s common supervisor, did in an interview in Might with The New York Instances — as an “antiwar opera.” It isn’t precisely that, even when it culminates (spoiler alert) in Jess deliberately crashing the $17 million Reaper as a result of she hallucinates that her goal’s daughter is her personal.

The opera implies that old style fighter piloting is nobler, and higher for troopers’ psychological well being, than the video-game-style drone deployment that has expanded the battlefield to embody, probably, all of us. Darkly, given the state of worldwide affairs these days, the piece appears to say that warfare is OK; there are simply higher and worse — extra and fewer genuine — methods of waging it.


By Nov. 13 on the Kennedy Heart; kennedy-center.org.