Fukuyama is an American political scientist, author of The End of History and the Last Man. Now a figure of popular culture, Fukuyama is himself the very incarnation of the last years of the 20th century – the refrain of “the end” – and the naïve, illusory hope, born at the falling of the Berlin Wall, in a liberal, American peace for a world turned Big Market. Trapped in a “business lounge” and comforted by a melancholic stewardess, Fukuyama wishes to return to Washington. The September 11th attacks force him to wait, and in the meantime, he is assailed by journalists… Professor Fukuyama’s language is English, but a forgotten language haunts him: Japanese, the language of his father, of his mother.
Pythia is “the universal mother”, bearer of pain and separation. Mad, she errs about in the halls of the airport. Pythia is the “narrator” of the infant century, the voice of excess and compassion. She hears the voices of those she calls “the birds of New York”, who jump from the towers to escape the flames. Her character is inspired by the Iraqi mothers who reached out to the American mothers of September 11th victims. Pythia’s language fluctuates between English and Arabic.
A simple janitor at the airport-world who, in the opera, works in Milan, at Malpensa, he drives the marble polishing machine, cleaning the departure and arrival halls. A working-class Italian with slangy manners, he comes from le Puglia and winces to see his work – the large halls clean, smooth and shining – spoilt by the waste of the delay, the travelers eating and sleeping on the ground as they wait for air traffic to begin again. A manual laborer and a stutterer, he is the voice of powerlessness and fear faced with an infinitely inconceivable History. The Janitor’s language is Italian.
The morning of September 11, she is in Istanbul on a layover on what is to be her final flight. Born in East Germany, she remembers the era of the opening, the first flights headed for the West. The day of the attacks, she leaves to go walk toward the Bosporus when her son calls, terrified. In the background, she hears cries: “My God! My God!” The line goes dead. As she walks up the old Grande Rue de Pera to reach her hotel, she sees passersby huddled around a shop window of television screens. One of them cries, “Death to America!” but she still does not understand what is happening. The stewardess’s languages are “airport English” and German.
The former student from Hamburg is Egyptian by origin and lives in Germany. His character is inspired by Moroccan-born Mounir Motassadeq, who was condemned to 15 years in prison, a companion to the participants and organizers of the September 11th attacks. The character is able to say “I knew them. I’ve been to the apartment in the Marienstrasse and I was there, at the Al Quds mosque and at Ziad Jarrah’s (see the photography) wedding.” When the attacks strike, he is preparing to return to Egypt to see his family, but flights are interrupted… The Student’s languages are German and Arabic.
As the opera goes on, the Chorus comes together and falls apart. The voices of the Chorus members are the voices of the airport travelers, but also of the journalists and the media. In the classic Ancient Greek form, the chorus narrates the tragedy taking place and restates the words the journalists spoke on September 11, but it also embodies opinion – the opinion of those who sit waiting, trapped, in all the airports of the world. In the confrontation with Fukuyama, the chorus tends to become the voice of a trial: the trial of an intellectual in the course of History who supported war – the global war on terror – and who chose, at every moment of his life, to side with strength, with power, and american hegemony.