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Classical Music Review

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One-Eleven Heavy
A Chamber Opera


Composer: Matt Frey
Conductor: David Bloom
Performed by: Hotel Elefant, Jenny Ribeiro (soprano) and Karim Sulayman (tenor)
Label: Navona Records
Release Date: 24 May 2019

On 02 September 1998, 229 passengers and crew members lost their lives when Swissair Flight 111 crashed into the Atlantic Ocean near Nova Scotia. Composer Matt Frey explores the human relationship to air travel while also commemorating the lives lost in the chamber opera One-Eleven Heavy...

Matt Frey uses recollections from reporters on the scene, interviews with family members including words from the pilot’s wife when she arrived on the scene - and even the original Air Traffic Control recordings from the crash.

The story is told in four parts (14 min, 02 sec). Beginning with the ATC recordings, the voices of soprano Jenny Ribeiro and tenor Karim Sulayman rise to the surface, painting the image of the scene as the radio recordings describe it starting to happen. Filled with a sense of anxiety and coming undone, the text tells the story in reverse chronology. The opera builds to the point of no return where plane alarms can be heard and voices and instruments meet for a tumultuous climax. The album concludes with a chilling epilogue featuring ocean sounds and ATC recordings as those on the opposite end started coming to the realization that Swissair 111 had gone down.

It's a moving tribute to the sad loss of life, wonderfully realised and beautifully performed. Even if opera music is not your thing, you'll have a hard time not being moved by this piece of performance art.


Darren Rea

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