Sung in English with projected English text
America’s longest-held prisoner of war returns home to a country he no longer recognizes.
Glory Denied is the story of an American family during the turbulent Vietnam War era. This intimate chamber opera chronicles the saga of Colonel Jim Thompson, America’s longest-held prisoner of war, from his suffering in the jungles of southeast Asia to the personal struggles of his family following his liberation and repatriation.
The characters of Captain Floyd James Thompson and Alyce Thompson are each played by two singers, representing their younger and older selves, as well as the many voices of their recollections.
Captain Thompson (Jim), America’s longest-held prisoner of war, recalls episodes of his nine-year ordeal which include escape attempts, torture, the overwhelming loneliness of five years in solitary confinement, and being forced to sign a propaganda statement. He finds the strength to survive in memories of his family, letters from his wife Alyce about their home and children, and thoughts of his elaborate plans to build his dream house.
Pregnant with their fourth child and only son, Alyce receives the news that Jim’s plane has been shot down. Denied any reliable information about his status or whereabouts, she soon begins a relationship with another man (Harold), eventually moving with him to Massachusetts and telling her children that their father is dead. Alyce refuses to have Jim’s name released to the public as Missing in Action, or inscribed on a P.O.W. bracelet, a popular solidarity symbol at the time, and consults a lawyer in an effort to have her husband legally declared dead. Thompson, in captivity, finds comfort in the 23rd Psalm.
A number of American P.O.W.s are released and Jim returns home, but the Pentagon honors another man, Everett Alvarez, as the longest-held prisoner. With the signing of the Paris Peace Accords, Jim receives a letter welcoming him back from President Richard Nixon, and suggesting that "some things about America may appear to have changed" since his departure. Alyce greets Jim’s homecoming and confesses her new relationship. She offers to go away if that is what he prefers, but Jim wants to reconcile. He notes how life has changed during his nine-year captivity and soon the couple begins to fight with Jim complaining that Alyce is not the wife he left behind. Alyce asserts her independence and describes what her life has been like during his absence. Jim, considered a local hero, is asked to give a sermon at the church where he and Alyce were married, and recalls his idealized family life. But Alyce has moved on.
The years pass and Jim, having suffered a stroke, lives alone, estranged from his family, struggling with all that has occurred.
This production has been made possible, in part, by a generous contribution from Regions and by grants from the Alabama Power Foundation, Caring Foundation / Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama, Alabama State Council on the Arts, and National Endowment for the Arts.