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Graphic representation of astronomer Galileo Galilei looking through a telescope surrounded by planets and clouds within a circular frame.

Galileo Galilei

Jun 15 – 29, 2024

By: Philip Glass

Have faith in science.

Discover the captivating story of one of the greatest — and most courageous — scientists in history. Galileo’s unwavering dedication to the pursuit of knowledge paved the way for groundbreaking scientific advancements, but also caused fierce conflicts with the Church he loved. This opera shines a light on Galileo’s steadfast spirit and reminds us of the enduring importance of intellectual curiosity. Today, Galileo’s story resonates more than ever, urging us to reevaluate our own beliefs, challenge the status quo, and stand firm in our convictions, no matter the consequences.

Experience the power of Glass’s mesmerizing compositions as they intertwine with a poetic libretto by the renowned playwright Mary Zimmerman. Together, they breathe life into the portrait of a man who forever redefined the center of our universe.

Event information

Venue
Loretto-Hilton Center

Performance Dates:
June: Sat 15, Wed 19, Fri 21, Sun 23, Thu 27, Sat 29 (matinee)

Running Length:
2 hours and 30 minutes, including one 25-minute intermission

Content advisory:
None

Synopsis

Galileo Galilei shows ten scenes from Galileo’s life. Letters and documents written by Galileo and his family illuminate his theories, faith, and trial for heresy.

Blind and nearing the end of his life, Galileo Galilei recalls poignant images from his past.

The Pope and cardinals of the Catholic Church condemn Galileo, now seventy, for publishing Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief Systems of the World. Galileo swears to never again deny the Holy Doctrine or claim that the sun is the center of the world. The church officials ban Galileo’s book and sentence him to imprisonment and penance in a villa.

In the garden of the convent, her home for the past ten years, Marie Celeste reads a letter to Galileo, her father.

Two Cardinals question Galileo about his most recently published book, Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief Systems of the World, which was written a decade ago. The Church previously summoned him in 1616 to proclaim his theories were repugnant to the Holy Scripture. Galileo says he argued hypothetical claims with too much force and volunteers to rewrite passages of the book.

While Galileo writes his book, the fictional characters in the dialogue come alive in their scientific debate. They declare that the mind that inquires is one of God’s greatest creations.

Galileo puts his theories to the test in his laboratory.

Galileo meets his friend, Cardinal Barberini, to discuss his newest book. Cardinal Barberini has written a letter avowing his faith in Galileo, but he warns Galileo to cease theorizing about the movements of the planets.

Galileo and his daughter sit in mass, where a priest pronounces that the Lord laid the foundations of the Earth, and it shall not be moved. Galileo, enraptured by the swinging of a lamp in the church, explains his theory of pendulum motion to Marie.

Galileo presents his invention, the telescope, to the Archduchess, Maria Maddalena, the Queen of France, Marie de Medicis, and the Grand Duchess, Mother Madama Christina. They celebrate his discoveries, and the Duchess and Galileo remember an opera written by Galileo’s father, Vincenzo.

A young Duchess and a young Galileo watch Vincenzo’s opera. Galileo is united with his deceased daughter through the story of the celestial figures in the opera.

Cast & Creative Team

Kwamé Ryan

Conductor

James Robinson

Stage Director

Allen Moyer

Set Designer

Marco Piemontese

Costume Designer

Greg Emetaz

Project Designer

Paul Groves

Older Galileo

Leadership support for Galileo Galilei comes from the Whitaker Foundation.    

Made possible in part by the Sally S. Levy Family Fund for New Works. 

James Robinson’s engagement is made possible with generous support from the William T. Kemper Foundation and David & Dotty Kemper.