Vietnam meets Puccini

I have come to appreciate art for art’s sake.

I also go right to the obits in the Naval Academy alumni magazine, “Shipmate.” I have never read an article. Until now.

The Seattle Opera is performing “Amelia,” a work about a Naval Academy graduate lost at sea during the Vietnam War and the daughter he left behind. Judging from the reviews, this original work is a hit, though it seems like an odd theme for the operatic stage.

From the “Shipmate” article, it is difficult to discern the real-life story. From what I can gather, Navy pilot Cmdr. Albert Dodge McFall (Class of 1950), went missing in 1965 while training for a second deployment to Vietnam. He left a wife and two children. It is the daughter, poet Gardner McFall, who, from her description, was hit hardest by this death.

Years later she published a book of poems. “The Pilot’s Daughter” chronicled her journey from her father’s (Dodge’s) death to the birth of her daughter. (The child is not Amelia.)

Through Gardner’s poetic style, fortunate choice of artistic friends, years of work and luck came the completed opera.

The character Amelia, named after (yes) Amelia Earhart, is Gardner. The opera appears to play like an episode of “Lost” with flash forwards and flash backs through time. Conventions aside, major critics have not been shy with their praise.

A synopsis of the opera can be read online.

Reviews include the New York Times, The Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and the Seattle Times.

Will its Seattle success mean “Amelia” will open at an opera house near you?

Do you want it to?


Nicholas Coppolo (Icarus), Kate Lindsey (Amelia), and Nathan Gunn (Paul) in Seattle Opera’s “Amelia.” © Rozarii Lynch photo

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