On March 16, 1968, the United States Army killed over 500 unarmed civilians in the hamlet of Mỹ Lai, Vietnam. The unimaginable brutality of the event impacted all those who witnessed it firsthand, including helicopter pilot Hugh Thompson, who, against orders, intervened to save Vietnamese lives. Thompson’s story is the basis of the opera Mỹ Lai, composed by Jonathan Berger (music) and Harriet Scott Chessman (libretto) for Kronos Quartet, Vietnamese multi-instrumentalist Vân-Ánh Vanessa Võ, and vocalist Rinde Eckert. This definitive recording of Mỹ Lai captures the visceral, phantasmal depictions of Thompson’s grief, horror, and guilt as he is haunted by persistent memories of that cataclysmic day, half a world and nearly four decades away. Tense and unforgiving, Mỹ Lai is “a gripping affair, beginning to end” (New York Times). Presented here alongside recollections by Vietnamese survivor Trần Văn Đức, it is a memorial to all the Mỹ Lai villagers killed on that grim day.
David Harrington, violin
John Sherba, violin
Hank Dutt, viola
Sunny Yang, cello
Vân-Ánh Vanessa Võ, t'ru'ng, Cfan bau, Cfan tranh
Rinde Eckert, vocalist
Music by Jonathan Berger
Libretto by Harriet Scott Chessman
Produced by Scott Fraser and Kronos Quartet
Recorded by Scott Fraser at Fantasy Studios, Berkeley, California, March 26-30, 2018
Assistant Engineer: Robert Kirby
Mixed by Scott Fraser and Kronos Quartet
Mastered by Scott Fraser
Executive Producer: Janet Cowperthwaite
Project Supervisor for Kronos: Reshena Liao
Annotated by Jonathan Berger and Tran Van Due
Dedicated to the memory of Larry Colburn
Cover Photo by Ronald Haeberle
Artist photo by Zoran Orlic
Audio sample of Quang Ngai lullaby by Pham Thi Mac used with permission from the Vietnam Institute of Musicology.
Audio sample from J.B. Lenoir's "Vietnam Blues" (1980, L+R Records) courtesy of Bellaphon records GmbH, Germany.
For the Kronos Quartet/Kronos Performing Arts Association: Janet Cowperthwaite, Executive Director; with Mason Dille, Dana Dizon, Sarah Donahue, Reshena Liao, Nikolas McConnie-Saad, and Karen Nagy.
My Lai (music by Jonathan Berger, libretto by Harriet Scott Chessman) was commissioned for the Kronos Quartet, Rinde Eckert, and Van-Anh Vanessa Vo by the Harris Theater for Music and Dance with support from the Laura and Ricardo Rosenkranz Artistic Innovation Fund and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Gerbode-Hewlett Foundations 2013 Music Commissioning Awards initiative, and the National Endowment for the Arts.
My Lai was recorded with support from Donald and Karen Evarts.
My Lai received its world premiere at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance in Chicago, IL, on January 29, 2016, with Larry Colburn, one of the other two men in Hugh Thompson Jr.'s helicopter crew, in attendance. The production was also presented by Singapore International Festival of Arts in Singapore; BAM's Next Wave Festival in Brooklyn, NY; Cal Performances in Berkeley, CA; Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA in Los Angeles, CA; and Hancher Auditorium in Iowa City, IA.
For the live production of My Lai:
Mark DeChiazza, Rinde Eckert, directors/set designers
Mark DeChiazza, video projections designer
Brian H. Scott, lighting designer Drew Cameron, creative consultant Janet Cowperthwaite, producer
Kronos Performing Arts Association, production management
Special thanks to: Mark DeChiazza, Brian H. Scott, Drew Cameron, Scott Fraser, Brian Mohr, Gregory Kuhn; Michael Tiknis, Joe Melillo, Keng Sen Ong, Matras Tarnopolsky, Kristy Edmunds, Jacob Yarrow, Chris Lorway; Pham Minh Huong, Tran Due Van, David Calleja, Jeannette Boudreau, Connie Field, Maureen Jules, Trent Angers; Regan Harrington, Mizue, Holland, and Jason Sherba, Greg Dubinsky, and Frederic Rosselet.
Smithsonian Folkways Executive Producers: Daniel E. Sheehy and John Smith
Production Manager: Mary Monseur
Production Assistant: Kate Harrington
Editorial Assistance by James Deutsch and Frank Proschan
Art Direction, Design, and Layout by Caroline Gut
For more than 45 years, San Francisco’s Grammy-winning Kronos Quartet and its nonprofit Kronos Performing Arts Association
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