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September 21, 2017

My Lai featured on WNYC public radio

Today, tenor Rinde Eckert and composer Jonathan Berger appeared on WNYC’s The Leonard Lopate Show to discuss My Lai: A monodrama for tenor, string quartet and Vietnamese instruments, which will be performed next week as part of BAM’s 2017 Next Wave Festival. Praised by the San Francisco Chronicle as “hauntingly beautiful” and “richly evocative” and by the Chicago Tribune as “absorbing” and “eloquent,” the chamber opera, composed by Berger with a libretto by novelist Harriet Scott Chessman, makes its New York debut September 27-30 at the BAM Harvey Theatre in Brooklyn (tickets are still available). Through an intimate character study of My Lai massacre whistleblower Hugh Thompson, Kronos, Eckert, and Vietnamese multi-instrumentalist Vân-Ánh Võ expose the tragedy and trauma of war. Listen to the interview >

Read librettist Harriet Scott Chessman’s LitHub essay >

Read tenor Rinde Eckert’s BAM blog essay >

Read composer Jonathan Berger’s essay for The Massachusetts Review‘s Favorite Things blog >


In an instant, a decision is made. The actions that follow may pass without a second thought, or may have consequences that last a lifetime. That moment may even alter history.

My Lai starts from the fateful choices of Army Warrant Officer Hugh C. Thompson Jr. on March 16, 1968.  As he and his crew – Glenn Andreotta and Lawrence Colburn – flew in a helicopter over the Vietnam countryside, they witnessed American soldiers killing Vietnamese villagers – 500 women, children, and the elderly. Exhibiting extraordinary moral courage, they chose to intercede. When they failed to stop the massacre, they resolved to rescue as many civilians as they could and to never be silent about what they saw. Despite a coordinated military cover-up that vilified him as a traitor, Thompson helped bring the truth to light. His actions changed the American public’s perception of the war forever.

In Jonathan Berger and Harriet Scott Chessman’s fevered character study of Thompson, it is not his heroism that day that takes center stage, but the tragedy of how those implicated in war are haunted by the trauma of its violence – regardless of how they acted. His story emerges in fragments as tenor Rinde Eckert, portraying Thompson near the end of his life, reflects on past and present, trapped in a web of fury, sorrow, and yearning. Careening from reflective arias to disoriented recitatives, Eckert’s expressive voice soars with music played by Kronos and Vietnamese multi-instrumentalist Vân-Ánh Võ.

Buy tickets to see My Lai at BAM >

    Jonathan Berger, composer
    Harriet Scott Chessman, librettist

    Kronos Quartet
    Rinde Eckert, vocalist
    Vân-Ánh Võ, t’rưng, đàn bầu, đàn tranh

    Mark DeChiazza, Rinde Eckert, directors/set designers
    Mark DeChiazza, video projections designer
    Brian H. Scott, lighting designer

    Drew Cameron, creative consultant
    Janet Cowperthwaite, producer
    Kronos Performing Arts Association, production management


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