Closing the Distance

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The 16/17 season begins in mid-September with the turning of a propeller, the whir of an engine, a human gasp as the machine rises from the earth, and the exhalation of breath when the one-man craft makes it over the tree line and heads toward the Atlantic.

Charles Lindbergh
Charles Lindbergh

From the moment Lindbergh touched down in France in The Spirit of St. Louis, the world could not get enough of the stoic Midwesterner. It was as if his form and his personality were sculpted to be the new, modern hero. A man who tamed the elements with his wits, his courage, and his technology. He closed the great distances of the earth. He was a leader of humankind in a century of progress.

Lindbergh was the first world celebrity. And so he was the first to experience, in full view of a world audience, fame’s inevitable–and in Lindbergh’s case tragic–rise and fall. The glow of the man attracted the attention of the world, leading to his success and his despair, to his genius and to his infamy.

Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht, like everyone else, were drawn to Lindbergh after his singular feat. They worked on a radio cantata together, The Flight of Lindbergh. Brecht drew the composer Paul Hindemith into the collaboration as well, creating a work that displeased Weill. “With our differing artistic natures,” Weill explained, “no artistic unity could come about.” So he was delighted when Otto Klemperer chose to conduct a concert performance of his own version. A man alone in the night sky deserves music written by a solitary artist confronting his own hopes and fears.

It’s this Flight of Lindbergh David Robertson will conduct on Opening Weekend. A story of the solo pilot Lindbergh battling darkness, fog, snow and sleep. The blinding flashbulbs are yet to be imagined.