is an opera
Opera is an art form in which singers and musicians perform a dramatic work combining text and musical score, usually in a theatrical setting. Opera incorporates many of the elements of spoken theatre, such as acting, scenery, and costumes and sometimes includes dance...
based on excerpts from the life of Galileo Galilei
Galileo Galilei , was an Italian physicist, mathematician, astronomer, and philosopher who played a major role in the Scientific Revolution. His achievements include improvements to the telescope and consequent astronomical observations and support for Copernicanism...
which premiered in 2002 at Chicago
Chicago is the largest city in the US state of Illinois. With nearly 2.7 million residents, it is the most populous city in the Midwestern United States and the third most populous in the US, after New York City and Los Angeles...
's Goodman Theatre
The Goodman Theatre is a professional theater company located in Chicago's Loop. A major part of Chicago theatre, it is the city's oldest currently active nonprofit theater organization...
. Music by Philip Glass
Philip Glass is an American composer. He is considered to be one of the most influential composers of the late 20th century and is widely acknowledged as a composer who has brought art music to the public .His music is often described as minimalist, along with...
A libretto is the text used in an extended musical work such as an opera, operetta, masque, oratorio, cantata, or musical. The term "libretto" is also sometimes used to refer to the text of major liturgical works, such as mass, requiem, and sacred cantata, or even the story line of a...
by Mary Zimmerman
Mary Zimmerman is an American theatre director and playwright, born in Lincoln, Nebraska.-Career:Zimmerman is a member of the Lookingglass Theatre Company and is an Artistic Associate of the Goodman Theatre in Chicago, Illinois. She received her BS, MA and PhD from Northwestern University, where...
and Arnold Weinstein. The piece is presented in one act
An act is a division or unit of a drama. The number of acts in a production can range from one to five or more, depending on how a writer structures the outline of the story...
consisting of ten scenes without break.
All genius meets with extreme resistance before it is accepted as truth. In the case of Galileo, it was the mere hypothesis that the earth revolved around the sun. The notion was considered heretical and blasphemous by scholars and clergy alike. Much was done to destroy Galileo's reputation. And since they could not do so through scientific proof, they did so through slander and threats of torture. It was not until recently that the Catholic Church finally admitted that they were wrong in persecuting Galileo. It took hundreds of years for them to admit the mistake. Galileo died believing that all of the advancements he had made in science were for naught. His books were banned, and his name was disgraced. All of this, for suggesting a theory that turned out to be true.
In addition to depicting Galileo's trials before the Inquisition, the opera also allows us a glance into Galileo's more personal side. Namely, in showing us his relationship to his daughter Maria Celeste, who was a nun. Maria Celeste shared her father's love of learning and science, but also understood that he was a man of great faith. She recognized that science was the very subject that served to deepen his faith, and she encouraged him on this path. The two met rarely. They were separated not only by distance, but by Galileo's often ailing health. Sadly, they were ultimately separated by her death at the age of 33, a source of incredible sadness for Galileo. However, their connection in this opera serves to give his story a more personal rendering. The story itself is told backwards through time. It begins with an aged Galileo, blinded from having looked at the sun too often and ends with him as a child. This is related to his invention of the telescope, which works by reversing images with lenses. Much of the staging in this production is representative of Galileo's theories and follows the patterns of the discoveries, planets, and constellations that his inventions made known to the world.
In the final days of his life, the now blind Galileo Galilei remembers the things in his life that he can no longer see.
The officials of the Catholic Church rebuke the scientist for not relenting on his theory that the Earth revolves around the Sun. The Pope hands down his sentence, and then reminds Galileo of a time when they walked in the garden as friends.
Marie Celeste, the daughter of Galileo, sends her intense devotion love and support through letters that are accompanied by elements of her garden at the convent.
Galileo is summoned before two Cardinals of the Catholic Church to answer questions regarding his book "Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief Systems of the World".
Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief Systems of the World
The Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems was a 1632 Italian language book by Galileo Galilei comparing the Copernican system with the traditional Ptolemaic system. It was translated to Latin as Systema cosmicum in 1635 by Matthias Bernegger...
As Galileo pens his book, the fictitious characters come alive to discuss the theories presented. Here, the Older Galileo becomes the Younger Galileo.
The theories and experiments are put to the test in Galileo's laboratory.
A Walk in the Garden
Galileo and his great friend Cardinal Barberini discuss Galileo's newest book in the Garden. After the Cardinal's feeble attempt at poetry, Galileo expresses his fear of his enemies. Barberini warns Galileo not to continue with his theories regarding the planets.
While at mass with his daughter, Galileo observes the swinging of a lamp suspended from the ceiling moving in pendulum fashion and explains his theory to Marie.
Presentation of the Telescope
Galileo presents his invention to the Duchess and her Ladies in Waiting. The Duchess and Galileo reminisce about a time in their youth when they watched an opera together composed by Galileo's father, Vincenzo.
Opera within the Opera
The Duchess and Galileo, now children, are in the audience as his father's opera is performed. The magical story of the planetary figures becomes the vehicle through which Galileo is reunited with his deceased daughter.