How do you return home from war when the world has left you behind?


Tickets to Glory Denied are now on sale. You may also get Glory Denied tickets as part of a Brown-Forman 2019/20 season subscription.


Music by Tom Cipullo; Libretto by Tom Cipullo, based on the book by Tom Philpott

Friday, November 8 at 8:00pm
Sunday, November 10 at 2:00pm

Brown Theatre
315 West Broadway | Louisville, KY 40202

Sung in English with English captions
Based on the book by Tom Philpott Produced by permission of ECS Publishing Group, St. Louis, MO Sole Agent for E. C. Schirmer Music Company, Publisher and Copyright Owner

One of the most important new works of present-day opera follows the saga of Jim Thompson, America’s longest-held prisoner of war. This production over Veteran’s Day weekend will amplify the stories of our brave service men and women and their families who have made the ultimate sacrifices for our country.

Cast & Creative

Steven Crawford

Mary Birnbaum

Gregory Gerbrandt
Older Thompson

Murrella Parton+
Older Alyce

Alexander Scheuermann+
Younger Thompson

Cree Carrico
Younger Alyce

+2019/20 Sandford Studio Artist 

Tom Cipullo Photo

Photo by Richard Gargiuolo

Hailed by the American Academy of Art & Letters for music of “inexhaustible imagination, wit, expressive range and originality,” composer Tom Cipullo is the winner of numerous awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship (2012) and the Arts & Letters Award from the American Academy of Arts & Letters (2013).  Mr. Cipullo has received commissions from dozens of performing ensembles and singers, and he has received fellowships and awards from Yaddo, the MacDowell Colony, the Liguria Study Center (Italy), the Fundacion Valparaiso (Spain), and the Oberpfaelzer Kuenstlerhaus (Bavaria).  The New York Times has called his music “intriguing and unconventional,” and The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has called him “an expert in writing for the voice.”  Cipullo’s music is recorded on the Naxos, Albany, CRI, PGM, MSR, GPR, Centaur, and Capstone labels, and is published by E.C. Schirmer, Oxford University press, and Classical Vocal Reprints.

Cipullo has composed orchestral works, solo piano pieces, and a vast quantity of vocal music, including over 200 songs and numerous vocal chamber works.  His first opera, Glory Denied, has enjoyed numerous productions, and the Fort Worth Opera recording on Albany Records was cited by Opera News as among the best of 2014.  Reviewers have hailed the work as “terrifically powerful… superbly written” (Fanfare), praising its “luminous score (Washington Post),” and noting “the dramatic tension was relentless (Opera News).”  Cipullo’s second opera, After Life (libretto by David Mason), has been called “a finely wrought exploration of the role of art in times of grave crisis (Washington Post)” and “unfailingly inventive (Opera News).”  Recorded on the Naxos label, After Life is the winner of the 2017 the Domenick Argento Chamber Opera Composition prize from the National Opera Association.  Recent projects include the opera Mayo, the winner of the 2016 Pellicciotti Opera Composition Prize from the Crane School of Music, and a new chamber opera, The Parting, commissioned by Music of Remembrance and premiered in Seattle in May 2019.

Mr. Cipullo received his Master’s degree in composition from Boston University and his B.S. from Hofstra University, Phi Beta Kappa with highest honors in music.

Photo by Hedwig Brouckaert

Glory Denied may be the first opera adapted from an oral history.  As such, it presents no linear narrative.  Virtually all of the dialogue in the opera is taken literally from actual statements by the real people involved.  On those few occasions where, for dramatic purposes, words have been changed or statements conflated, the composer has taken care not to alter the intent of the speaker.

Glory Denied has four singing roles.  Jim and Alyce Thompson are each played by two singers.  Thus, young Alyce presents the character as Jim remembers her from letters written long ago.  Older Alyce is the person she has become since his capture.  Likewise, the older Jim reflects back on his imprisonment while the younger represents his character during the ordeal.  On occasion, the singers may assume the voices of other figures as well (i.e. Pentagon spokesman, Army General, Vietnamese guard, etc.).


In 2001, while in residence at the MacDowell Colony, I came across the New York Times review of Tom Philpott’s Glory Denied.   Immediately, I was intrigued.  “Indeed, it is not too much to say,” the review by Richard Bernstein stated, “that Glory Denied …encapsulate[s] something of the moral essence of the Vietnam War and the imperishable bitterness of the war’s legacy.”

For years, I had wanted to create a music drama that would address contemporary issues, one that would take ordinary people and place them in an extraordinary situation.  This story, with all its suffering, heroism, selfishness, and dignity, struck me as completely and overwhelmingly operatic.  Of course, crafting the libretto would present a huge number of challenges.  How might I reflect the difference between Alyce and Jim’s memories of her?  I settled on having two singers play twin versions of the character.  One would represent Jim’s idealized vision, while the other would show what Alyce was actually doing and thinking while Jim was a prisoner.  Two versions of Alyce led me to consider having Colonel Thompson portrayed by two singers.  Young Jim would live through these events, while the older character would recall them from a distance.  Perhaps the biggest challenge in writing the work was how to make Alyce a real, comprehensible, three-dimensional person.  Some of her actions during Jim’s ordeal were nothing short of shocking.  Still, when Alyce sings, her music must be so beautiful and persuasive that people will say, “Yes, if I had been alone with four children – the last born the day my husband was captured – perhaps I could have done that too.”  I am no moral relativist.  I believe strongly that behavior can be right or wrong.  But my own memories of the time remind me that many good people did things they regret during the Vietnam era.  It was as if there was a great madness in the land, and everyone, it seems, simply did the best they could.

Glory Denied is, above all, the story of an American family during one our nation’s most turbulent eras.  My hope is that those new to opera will find in the work’s ensembles and arias a bridge to a fascinating, complex, and formative time for our country.

The opera Glory Denied is dedicated to my dear friend Steven Burke.  Finally, I would like to express my deepest appreciation to Tom Philpott.  His generosity of spirit is truly an inspiration.

Tom Cipullo
July 9, 2019