Controversial opera inspired by 9/11 opens in Islington on anniversary

A controversial opera inspired by the September 11 terrorist attacks is opening on the anniversary of the atrocity.

Manifest Destiny is being staged at the King’s Head Theatre in Islington to mark the 10th anniversary of the worst attacks on American soil since Pearl Harbour.

The story follows the fortunes of two young Palestinian suicide bombers and their complex love triangle with a Jewish composer in London.

Performed by a five-member cast, it looks at America’s role in the war on terror and what might drive someone to become a terrorist.

The play, which is written by Dic Edwards and features music by Keith Burstein, sparked controversy when first performed in 2005 for supposedly glamorising terrorism. But Burstein denies this.

He said: “There is no actual glorification of terrorism at any point. The whole opera has a very balanced view and every character is morally ambivalent. I thought it would be good to take the contemporary demon of the suicide bomber and show how it perhaps could be anyone, it could be you or me.”

Burstein said the opera has been changed to make it relevant in 2011.

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“From my part it is now a new version, really radically quite different from before,” he said, adding that he had been inspired by the “Arab Spring” revolutions across the Middle East.

Valentina Ceschi, who is directing the opera, added: “In one respect it has become epic, transcending time and actual events in history, yet we have also focused more on the personal stories so that people can empathise with their experiences.”

OperaUpClose, the resident company at the King’s Head, specialise in close interaction between the audience and opera.

Burstein believes Manifest Destiny was “tailor-made for that treatment, as the more intimate the opera is, the better it will work.”

The production will run in repertory when its season ends, while OperaUpClose’s next show will be the world premiere of Daniel Slater’s version of Giuseppe Verdi’s Macbeth, opening in November.

The acclaimed troupe won the 2011 Olivier Award for Best New Opera for its staging of Puccini’s La Boh�me.

- Manifest Destiny is at the King’s Head Theatre in Upper Street, Islington, until Monday, September 26, going into repertory in October.

Tickets costing �17.50-22 (concessions �15) and can be booked by calling the box office on 0207 478 0160.