Act I of the contemporary opera: Hostages to fortune



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Texas Tech University


The Kennedy family can be viewed as an American version of royalty, and as such its private and public personae can be interpreted in a variety of ways. To some, their story is one of noble self-sacrifice in service of country; to others, it is a lubricious and sometimes tawdry tale of power and privilege. In Act I of Hostages to Fortune, the interpretation is fashioned from these and other stories, drawing upon actual words and deeds (and an appropriate degree of dramatic license) to suggest that the tragic and dramatic sacrifices made by this family were in large part the result of the Joseph P. Kennedy's far-reaching ambitions for his sons. Thus the opera, unlike many other stories about the Kennedy family, focuses on the father and the effect of his manipulating hand on the lives of his wife and sons and, less directly, on the events of recent history.

The opera blends a variety of musical styles including jazz, pop, Broadway, and minimal, to express the tale in an engaging yet stylistically appropriate manner. The book, lyrics, and music are original and were generally conceived as a unit. While there are distinct numbers (solos, duets, ensembles), the opera also includes interludes, purely musical passages, as well as accompanied dialogue.

The plot of the opera is strongly based on factual events and draws heavily on actual quotations (both famous and infamous, trivial and profound) gleaned from extensive research into the Kennedy family.