'Heart of a Soldier, ' SF Opera Based on the Life of a Vietnam War Hero

On September 10, the San Francisco Opera will present the first of seven performances of the world premiere of Heart of a Soldier , based on the life of Rick Rescorla, the Vietnam veteran hero of the September 11, 2001, World Trade Center attack.

Rescorla, the head of security for Morgan Stanley, personally led the rescue of some 2, 700 people out of the burning building. He then went back into the building, and was last seen climbing up the stairs on the 10th floor searching for stragglers.

The opera, with music by Christopher Theofanidis and libretto by Donna Di Novelli, is based on the 2003 book of the same name by Pulitzer-Prize-winning journalist James B. Stewart. In that book, subtitled “A Story of Love, Heroism, and September 11th, ”  Stewart traces Rescorla’s life from his birth in England, through his mercenary service in the former Northern Rhodesia, to his death on September 11th.

He includes a great deal about Rescorla’s romance with his second wife, Susan Greer, as does the opera. Rescorla’s last words to her were in a frantic cell phone call that fateful day: “Stop crying. I have to get these people out safely. If something should happen to me, I want you to know I’ve never been happier. You made my life.”

The acclaimed baritone Thomas Hampson will sing the role of Rick Rescorla. Tenor William Burden is Daniel J. Hill, Rescorla’s best friend, and  soprano Melody Moore portrays Susan, Rescorla’s wife.

Rick Rescorla also acted heroically in Vietnam as a platoon leader during the Battle of the Ia Drang Valley. A photograph of Rescorla in the heat of battle (below ) graces the cover of We Were Soldiers Once and Young , the seminal book about that engagement by Hal Moore and Joe Galloway.

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