In several airports across the world, news of the attacks of September 11, 2001, is being hectically broadcast. Flights are cancelled. Air traffic is interrupted. The trapped travelers (the Chorus) must wait. Some panic, others pray, and others cry or call loved ones. Powerless, trembling, they watch the flood of images from New York arriving via American television channels. Among them, five travelers split off from the crowd. An old, deranged woman haunts the airport’s law-free zones. She is the voice of the dead, the disappeared: the voice of this infant 21st century of fury and of faith, where the gods steal from her what she calls “her children”: soldiers, combatants, mujahideen, victims, kamikazes… Alternating between English and Arabic, she hears the voices of the “birds” in New York who, this morning, try to escape from the World Trade Center towers. Meanwhile, at the Milan airport, an Italian janitor cleans and polishes the departure and arrival halls. Perched on his marble polishing machine, he threads his way between the travelers, watching “his” airport become covered in the waste of the attacks – for as the travelers hope for their flights to depart, they eat, drink, camp out… In another airport, in front of the “business lounge”, journalists track down Professor Francis Fukuyama : they want to question him, capture his reactions, and hear him speak: Has History begun again? “Professor” Fukuyama, a counselor to George W. Bush and a key figure in the neoconservative revolution in America, is also trapped. He intends to return to Washington but cannot. Assisted and soothed by a melancholic stewardess, he remembers his past commitment, his repeated celebration of a liberal, Reaganian, hegemonic United States and wonders how he could have been so blind to the “long history of American shame.” The stewardess tries to calm him and, like the other travelers, remembers the concerns of the day, with her son’s telephone call: “Mom, turn on the television! Turn on the television!” The United States has been struck. Everything is at a standstill: time, reason, memory. In the end, will Fukuyama recognize his blindness? Will he respond to the journalists’ questioning? In Berlin, at the Schönefeld airport, the faces of the hijacker pilots appear on the television screens. Sarhan, the son of an Egyptian father, raised in Germany, recognizes Jarrah and Mohamed Atta as his classmates from his years as a young university student in Hamburg. Sarhan evokes the difficulty of reconciling these images of excess with the faces of those he used to see at the al-Quds Mosque…
Theme and times
The Fall of Fukuyama examines catastrophe and the relationship between humans and History.
The opera takes place simultaneously before, after, and during the attacks of September 11, 2001: that is, between the dream of eternal peace and the return to war, between the memory of the 20th century and the general fiction of the 21st. In several languages, the travelers follow History as it unfolds in the distance on the plasma screens they wander in front of. Between fear, stammering, and madness, they reflect upon the first years of the 21st century, years of war during which the real took on the form of total fiction. The travelers in The Fall of Fukuyama want to act on History, tie themselves to it – but they remain helpless.