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'Manifest Destiny'


Act1 - Images

London - Palestine .

The opera follows the fate of Leila , a Palestinian poetess studying in London where she lives with her partner Daniel Xavier, a Jewish composer , for whom she is writing a libretto. The post 9/11world and the ' war on terror' however , drag her into political activism and then towards 'martyrdom'. She leaves Daniel for the Middle East , plunging him into despair , the shock making him go blind. She is drawn towards Al Qaeda but Leila's fellow militant , Mohammed , who falls under her spell , understands this is not the true Leila and, in a moment of revelation realizes that her power of creativity and her poetic vision is a greater power than that of violence. Leila is never  to commit any terrorist crimes.

In a counter revolutionary spirit Mohammed decides to save Leila from herself ' for Islam and for Man' , seeing a non violent way forward within the loving heart of his beliefs. He betrays her  to US forces and offers himself as a double agent , declaring at the end of Act 1, to his own surprise ,  ' I love life more than I love death'.


Act2 - Dance Music

The White House- Afghanistan - Guantanamo .  

In the near future world of the opera the President ,  a woman , President Hillary , and the CIA Director muse idly about their ambitions after the Inaugural Ball. Mr. Director shocks the President by telling her she can become ' the first American Emperor '. Mohammed is tortured in Guantanamo in scenes (written in early 2003) which anticipate the sexual abuse of Abu Ghraib. The struggle between the President and The CIA Director develops. President Hillary , in a display of conscience , expresses misgivings about attacking Arabian States , and fears ' as a mother for the children of Arabia '. Mr.Director,  a fanatical advocate of ' the New American Century',  impatiently 'explains' to her that ‘ the oil resources  belong to the world'. He thrusts the documents of war towards her and insists ' You will sign the authorization' but they are interrupted by the sudden arrival of Mohammed who they believe is a ' big catch' who will extract secrets from the Guantanamo detainees. Mohammed's true motive though is simply to follow Leila to Guantanamo where she is imprisoned.


Act 3 - The Heights

Guantanamo - London .

 Mohammed is duly dispatched to Guantanamo . Here he meets a guard who has been responsible for Leila. At the opening of Act 3 the guard brutalizes Leila , but then , transformed by her singing of her mother's garden --' there is a tree in my mother's garden for many a century , green and rich in foliage. Now a sandstorm has stripped it of its bark and stripped it of life' ,-- he collapses in remorse and , in an act of contrition , washes her feet. By the time Mohammed arrives Leila is dead by her own hand. The guard gives Mohammed a manuscript , Leila’s libretto completed in captivity.  In a gesture of reconciliation with the composer Daniel , Leila's Jewish partner , Mohammed takes the manuscript back to London .

Dawn in Daniel's London studio.

As the sun rises little by little Daniel's sight miraculously returns.(' They keep coming , these threads , and yet there is joy in my tears' ).Then , in the flood of brilliant light , Mohammed arrives and hands Daniel the libretto. Daniel reads on the front the words ' Manifest Destiny'. Mohammed tells him ' In it she has written: " we have this choice :death or love" '. Leila's libretto , a vision of peace in a world beyond strife , will be Daniel's new opera , the work the audience has just seen , as it were , this very opera , Manifest Destiny. The circle is complete and Daniel , a Jew , and Mohammed , a Palestinian , embrace in tragedy and hope. 


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[keith burstein]  [manifest destiny]

All music is copyright 1989-2011 by Keith Burstein and may not be used for commercial purposes without the author's consent.

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