The Voyage
An Opera in Three Acts
Music by Philip Glass
Libretto by David Henry Hwang based on a story by Philip Glass
Dennis Russell Davies, conductor
Soloists and chorus of the Landestheater Linz
Bruckner Orchester Linz


Orange Mountain Music 0017


1. Prologue 10:11
2. Act I, Scene 1 04:08
3. Act I, Scene 2, Part 1 07:46
4. Act I, Scene 2, Interlude 06:06
5. Act I, Scene 2, Conclusion 04:49
6. Act I, Scene 3 16:58
7. Act II, Scene 1 09:37

1. Act II, Scene 2 29:33
2. Act III, Scene 1 09:45
3. Act III, Scene 2 10:18
4. Act III, Scene 3 and Epilogue 26:48


From the beginning of my work on The Voyage, I had decided that the opera would be a celebration of the spirit of discovery. Of course, the occasion for the commission from the Metropolitan Opera was the 500th anniversary of the arrival of Columbus in the New World. However, my intention was to shift the focus from the man himself to the imagination and dream that animated him.

I’ve never felt that “reality” was well served in an opera house. And I think this is even more true when the subject of the opera is based on historical events. Surely those with a taste for historical facts and documentation would be better served in libraries where academic research is presumably reliable and readily available. The opera house is the arena of poetry par excellence, where the normal rules of historical research need not be applied and where, in the world of artistic imagination, a different kind of truth can be discovered.

Now, Christopher Columbus was a dynamic, fascinating man. In most ways he was a man of his times – no better and probably no worse. He was remarkable for the force and dedication that he brought to his dreams. And this, above all, is what sets him apart and makes him compelling for us today – a half a millennium later. It is the driving force in Columbus that draws us to him and inspires books, plays, movies and operas about him.

The Voyage is about discoveries and the people who make them – those intrepid souls, who from the beginning of human history, have willingly, even gladly, left the world of the familiar and secure to plunge, often recklessly, into an unknown future. And these “discoveries” need not be concerned with geographical exploration. Scientists and artists are high on my list of courageous men and women who have changed the world in which we live.

In fact, the Prologue of this opera is delivered by a Scientist, inspired by the real life scientist Stephen Hawking, who is currently exploring the furthest reaches of the universe without leaving his wheelchair.

The three Acts relate to Columbus and his past, his present, and his future, in that order. Acts One and Three (the past and future) are fiction and science fiction. Act Two represents only fragments of his life – in fact two days only. The first day (Scene I) portrays him leaving the Court of Isabella and the second (Scene II) is October 11, 1492, the day before his arrival in the New World. In this opera Columbus never meets the Indians. That particular cultural confrontation takes place in a different time and place and serves as the finale to Act One, and is every bit as traumatic and dramatic as the “real” historical “Columbus” event must have been.

David Henry Hwang, working from the story “treatment” I prepared for the Met, and through further discussions with David Pountney, our director, and myself, has, to my mind, brought the libretto splendidly to life. In David’s working out of the material, the imaginary scenes seem almost more real and the historical scenes more imaginary. Throughout, the characters had begun to live and breathe, and when the libretto was completed, were ready to begin their voyage from the world of the writer’s imagination to the opera stage.

— Philip Glass


Prologue: While a chorus poses eternal questions about the nature of time and space, the Scientist, seated in a wheelchair that descends from the stars, ponders the idea of exploration. Despite faulty equipment, inadequate bodies and finite minds, there always have been people who have the courage to follow where their vision leads.

Act I, Scene 1: Toward the end of the earth’s Ice Age, a space-ship hurtles out of control toward our own solar system. Inside, the Commander, complaining that nothing on her ship works – neither the lights, nor the engines, not even her training, which did not prepare her for this eventuality – foresees a beast licking its chops, waiting for the dead. As the spaceship plunges closer to earth, the First Mate punches up an image of the rapidly approaching planet on his computer and describes its life-giving properties—water, oxygen, vegetation and humanoid forms. Meanwhile, the Second Mate relives his wretched childhood, as the Ship’s Doctor remembers her garden and children at springtime. The spaceship crashes.

Act I, Scene 2: Still at his computer screen, the First Mate sees images of a late-Ice Age planet, whose terrain in some areas is similar to our own. As the Commander asks to see a last glimpse of the planet she and her shipmates will soon forget, the First Mate adjusts his screen to receive a map of the cosmos. In one corner, blinking, is the travelers’ home planet. Each blink produces a three-note chord. As each crew member takes one of the ship’s pulsating directional crystals, any two of which when brought together will point the way home. He pictures in his mind, the world he would like to live in – the Second Mate pictures a realm ruled by machines, where he turns the sky black (the Europe of the Industrial Revolution); the First Mate pictures a continuation of his voyage (he is transported to a pavilion near the top of a Tibetan mountain); and the Ship’s Doctor pictures a place where people will listen eagerly to her stories (she appears in India, with masses of children around her).

Act I, Scene 3: Alone, the Commander stares at the pulsating crystal in her hand. She would like to have died rather than be bound by boredom. She prepares to exit the spacecraft, wondering what fate awaits her. As the door opens and she steps out, natives, performing the rites of spring, think she is a fantastic creature, barely humanoid. The Commander is swept up in the natives’ ritual.

Act II, Scene 1: At Granada in 1492, Queen Isabella and the Spanish court bid farewell to Columbus as he sets out for the Indies. As the queen encourages the navigator by quoting from Scripture, members of the court promise him titles, wealth and power. This scene turns out to be…

Act II, Scene 2: …something remembered by Columbus on board the Santa María. The First Mate’s voice, calling out the dawn watch, jolts Columbus back to the sordid realities of life at sea. It is the thirty-second day into the voyage, and his men no longer have faith in him or his mission. The awesome solitude seems to crush in on him when he has a vision of Isabella, who reminds him that his dream, before he set out, was so real it could have come only from God. But, argues Columbus, “As through the expanses of blue I see my own face, and it is old.” Isabella reminds him of Noah’s faithfulness. The explorer further expresses his doubts about “the order of God, and the Turks and Jews we kill in His name.” As the queen appears surrounded by a radiant holy light, looking like the Madonna, she calls on the explorer to remember a virgin “who felt in her belly a stirring, and held fast to the faith this was God.” When Columbus requires a promise that by this expedition he will further the kingdom of God, Isabella, swearing it is so and becoming more clearly a mortal woman, claims to be his queen, his love, his one true God. A bird sings, and the First and Second Mates cry out “Tierra!”.

Act III, Scene 1: In a space station in our solar system in the year 2092, Space Twins 1 and 2 scan various sectors of the universe, seeking the origins of life. At the same time, archeologists Earth Twins 1 and 2, each carrying a glowing crystal from Act I, meet in a research laboratory on earth. While hiking in the Andes, one of them heard a low-pitched tone; the other was digging near the Ganges when she heard a high-pitched tone. As the Earth Twins bring their crystals together, the original three-note chord is recreated, causing the space station’s scanner to focus on the “home” planet in the cosmos from which the original visitors came.

Act III, Scene 2: The Commander, alone at first, muses on the eternal quest of humanity; It is a goal, perhaps, to be realized in the coming voyage. In a jubilant send-off, various dignitaries and politicians dance before a brass band and a large, enthusiastic crowd. The chorus of good wishes dims as the team of explorers enters the spaceship.

Act III, Scene 3: Inside the spaceship, each member of the expedition, the Commander, Space Twins 1 and 2 and the First Mate, equipped with a telephone headset, bids farewell to his or her loved ones. Once again, mankind is off on a voyage of discovery, exploring the unknown.

Epilogue: As the space travelers fade away, Columbus appears on his deathbed. It is 1506. Dominican monks chant a requiem, and Isabella comes to accompany the explorer to the realm of which she already is a part. As he accuses the queen of failing to keep her promises, she ridicules his assurance as being the child of pride, his actions in the New World as being guided by Lucifer. She invites him to her bed. Columbus resists her, claiming, “The journey that awaits is far more seductive than all your last temptations.” Still pondering questions raised by man’s eternal curiosity, he is transported to the stars.

DENNIS RUSSELL DAVIES: One of the most innovative and eclectic conductors in the classical music world, Dennis Russell Davies has succeeded in challenging and inspiring audiences on both sides of the Atlantic. Davies has ventured into operatic, orchestral and even popular forms of music, as conductor, chamber musician and pianist, to express his versatile musical agenda. Since 1980, he has lived in Europe as Music Director of many presitigous orchestras, but he has also maintained an active presence on the North American scene as a regular guest conductor with the major orchestras and opera houses of New York and Chicago. Since 2002, he has been Chief Conductor of the Linz Opera, and Chief Conductor and Music Director of the Bruckner Orchester Linz.

BRUCKNER ORCHESTER LINZ: The Bruckner Orchester Linz is the state orchestra of the Austrian province of Upper Austria. The orchestra, which looks back on history and traditions stretching back 200 years, has developed over the last three decades into one of the leading orchestras of Central Europe. With its 110 musicians, it functions as the opera orchestra at the Upper Austrian State Theatre, the Landestheater in Linz and as the concert orchestra for the State of Upper Austria.

Between its local concerts and international touring activity, the Bruckner Orchester Linz offers an exciting and varied repertory, ranging from early classical and baroque to the very modern. In Linz, the Bruckner Orchestra has made critically acclaimed appearances at the Bruckner Festival, the Ars Electronica Festival, the Linz Klangwolke and Voestival.

2004/2005 saw tours of Italy and the Czech Republic and in 2005/06, the orchestra made its first tour of the US which featured the world premiere of Philip Glass’ 8th Symphony, which was a work commissioned by the Bruckner Orchestrer Linz and recorded on the tour.

The orchestra has played under such distinguished guest conductors as Serge Baudo, Vladimir Fedosejev, Michael Gielen, Heinrich Schiff, Bernhard Klee, Hans Wallat and Franz Welser-Möst. The chief conductors responsible for molding the orchestra into the wonderful ensemble that it is today include: Theodor Guschlbauer, Manfred Mayrhofer, Martin Sieghart. Dennis Russell Davies has been the Chief Conductor and Director of Opera since 2002.

LANDESTHEATER LINZ: The Landestheater Linz is the Upper Austrian State Opera. Founded in 1803, its history goes back more than 200 years. The Landestheater Linz is one of Austria’s largest theaters, with more than 500 employees, coming from more than 40 countries. The Landestheater Linz presents opera, musicals, ballet, drama and young people’s theater. On its 4 stages it produces 30 premieres per year with about 750 performances, seen by an audience of 240,000 spectators per season.

Both the Landestheater Linz and the Bruckner Orchester Linz are part of the “Oberösterreichische Theater und Orchester GmbH”, owned by the State of Upper Austria. Artistic Director Dr. Michael Klügl, Chief Conductor Dennis Russell Davies (who also is director for the opera) and Executive Director Dr. Thomas Königstorfer form the board of the State’s most visitied cultural institution, Governor Dr. Josef Pühringer is the company’s president.


Music by Philip Glass. Libretto by David Henry Hwang, based on a story by Philip Glass.

Commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera in commemoration of the 500th Anniversary of Columbus’ arrival in America. World Premiere: October 12, 1992 at the Metropolitan Opera, in commemoration of the 500th Anniversary of the Discovery of America. European Premiere: October 6, 2002 at the Landestheater Linz (Linz State Opera).

Conductor: Dennis Russell Davies. Performed by the Bruckner Orchester Linz and Chorus of the Landestheater Linz. Characters: Lars Lettner (The Scientist), Pedro Veláquez Diaz (First Mate), Ruth Bormann (Commander), Cheryl Lichter (Ship’s Doctor/Space Twin 1), Lauri Vasar (Second Mate/Space Twin 2), Karen Robertson (Isabella), Klaus-Dieter Lerche (Columbus), Christa Ratzenböck (Earth Twin 1), William Mason (Earth Twin 2).

Assistant Conductor: Ingo Ingensand. Chorus Master: Georg Leopold. Director: Daniela Kurz. Designer: Benita Roth.

Artistic Director of the Landestheater Linz: Dr. Michael Klügl. Executive Producers for OÖ Theater und Orchester GmbH: Dr. Thomas Königstorfer, Dr. Heribert Schröder. Executive Producers for Orange Mountain Music: Philip Glass, Kurt Munkacsi and Don Christensen.

Produced by: Michael Riesman. Recorded at the Brucknerhaus, Linz, October 2003 and March 2004. Recording Engineers: Hubert Hawel, Alois Hummer, Petea Mairinger, Andreas Lanegger, Daniel Pöllhuber. Mixed at The Looking Glass Studios, New York City, September 2004. Mixed by: Michael Riesman. Mix Engineer: Ichiho Nishiki.

Design: Lissi Sigillo. Photos from the Landestheater Linz Production: Norbert Artner.

A Special Thanks to: Joseph Volpe, Robert Tobin, Bob Israel, David Hwang, David Pountney, Richard Guerin and Jim Keller.

The Voyage is published by Dunvagen Music Publisher Inc. (ASCAP).

℗ and © 2006 by Orange Mountain Music.



The Voyage