A Drone Opera, Brought to You by General Dynamics? A Company Clarifies.

When the Washington National Opera announced that it would open its next season with the premiere of “Grounded,” a new opera that explores the psychological toll of drone warfare, its star composer Janine Tesori announced that listed sponsor General It didn’t get as much attention as the dynamics. military contractor.

Anger exploded online, with critics accusing the Washington National Opera of acting as a mouthpiece for the defense industry.killer drone operaNew York Magazine gave the opera a “sneaky” rating approval matrix, describing it as a “General Dynamics-sponsored drone-bombing opera ‘Grounded’.” RT, Russia’s state-owned news agency, showed strength American military-industrial complex.

The production team of “Grounded,” an adaptation of the acclaimed Off-Broadway play, and the Metropolitan Opera of New York, which commissioned the opera, were apprehensive about how the new opera would look. They worked behind the scenes to push the Washington National Opera to reveal that General Dynamics, the opera company’s primary sponsor since 1997, had nothing to do with the creation of the opera. .

In a statement to the New York Times, Tesori, a major Broadway composer who has also ventured into opera, said, “Knowing that ‘Grounded’ is the work of its creators will give audiences confidence in ‘Grounded’. I felt that we needed to take action so that we could see it in person.” She added that she only recently learned that General Dynamics supports charities.

On Tuesday, after days of negotiations, the Washington National Opera posted a statement Seeking distance from its benefactor.

“For clarity, no WNO sponsors or supporters were involved in the writing or scripting of ‘Grounded’.”

The company has changed its “Grounded” page website that described General Dynamics as a “Presenting Sponsor” to clarify that the company is a “WNO Season Sponsor.” He also rewrote his text for the opera’s promotion to include a line describing the protagonist as “his F-16 fighter pilot of hot shots, an elite warrior trained for the skies,” as well as “all the advantages of a warman.” is not clear. The new description cut references to “the horrors of war.”

This episode highlights the difficulties cultural institutions face in protecting the integrity of their art while fostering rich donors. In recent years, the Kennedy Center, the parent organization of the Washington National Opera, faced pressure sever ties with some backers, including tobacco companies;

General Dynamics is a sponsor of the Washington National Opera, Offering over $500,000 For the past few years, every year at the company. Gregory S. Gallopoulos, Senior Vice President of General Dynamics, is a member of the Board of Directors of Opera Company.

Timothy O’Leary, executive director of the Washington National Opera, said in an interview that General Dynamics has no opinion on “Grounded” or any other production.

“No sponsor has a say in our artistic decisions,” he said.

The opera “Grounded”, an adaptation of George Blunt’s play, was presented by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2017. This is part of the company’s efforts to promote his contemporary operas. The MET has agreed to co-produce the opera with the Washington National Opera ahead of the MET’s premiere, scheduled for 2025.

The New York Times describes the play on which it is based as follows: armored spirit. “

Peter Gelb, general manager of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, described the work as an “anti-war opera” and said it subtly depicts the cost of war. He said he advised his Washington counterparts to take swift action once concerns began circulating on social media about General Dynamics’ support of the opera.

“It’s very bad for the job if this misconception isn’t corrected,” he said in an interview.

General Dynamics declined to comment on the controversy on Tuesday, but said in a statement that it was “proud to support the arts.”

Chairman and CEO of General Dynamics since 2013, Phoebe N. Novakovic is an opera lover who grew up listening to records on a Victrola record player with her Serbian grandmother. Shortly after she rose to the top of the company, General Dynamics sponsored her for a full season of her opera The National in Washington.

when asked at 2016 interview Novakovic cited her grandmother’s influence as to why the company was such a big proponent of opera.

“By supporting opera, I honored both her memory and my love for that form of human expression,” she said at the Economic Club of Washington. I will send you to the opera.”

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