Synopsis of the Opera

Act I

A doctor and a mechanic are walking along an airfield, going to meet a group of pilots. The doctor comments that the forces of nature in this land have not settled down yet; the land is hot and the people hot-tempered. Phaedra, who has an intense personality, also comes to welcome the pilots along with her friend the gentle Phoebe. Phaedra confides to Phoebe that she has a serious interest in Philip, the best pilot of this aviation unit. A braggart appears and bothers the girls with provocative comments. Phaedra, offended, dispatches him brusquely. When Philip arrives she conveys to him good news from home. They begin to fall in love with each other.

Act II

Philip tells the mechanic, his friend, that he has fallen in love with Phaedra. He is spellbound and happy. The mechanic wishes him luck, but expresses his concern that the military base is not the place for love. The pilots gather during their free time, chat with each other, and sing about happy landings. The doctor mentions that since time immemorial people have longed to imitate the flight of birds, and quotes the verses from Ovid's Metamorphoses about the boy Icarus, who fell into the sea when the sun melted the wax on his wings, fashioned by his father Daedalus. Philip objects that now they have reliable planes, and parachutes in case of emergency. The Doctor considers love to be an even more insidious longing. He cites the example of Queen Phaedra, unhappily in love with her stepson Hippolytus. The braggart enters. When he hears the name Phaedra he begins to boast of his successes with her. He provokes Philip, who attacks him physically. The emotionally-shaken Philip does not believe the slanderer, but he his lost his faith in Phaedra.


Phaedra complains to Phoebe about Philip's coldness toward her, the reason for which she cannot explain. She recalls how glad they used to be when they saw each other. An adjutant enters and asks Phaedra who has offended her. He believes there has been violence and suspects the braggart. Phaedra names Philip. The adjutant, who shows zeal out of proportion to the situation, persuades Phaedra to report the case. The unhappy Phaedra succumbs to her thirst for revenge and believes she will get satisfaction by reporting Philip. Phoebe and the doctor warn her in vain.

Act IV

An improvised trial is drawing to a close. The judge declares that all the witnesses have been heard. The adjutant, as prosecutor, calls for the most severe punishment for the rape and presents himself as a defender of the dignity of "dishonored" women. The defense counsel agrees with such punishment should guilt be proven, but says in this case there is no proof. Everything attests to the fact that this is a case of disappointment in love, i.e. a personal matter that does not belong in court. The judge orders the jury to retire and discuss the case. When they return the doctor announces the verdict, which is that the accused is innocent. The jury recommends that the plaintiff be transferred to a different base. The judge and jurors are satisfied with the verdict according to law and the facts. Phaedra feels ashamed. She and Philip look at each other in silence. Painfully she realizes that their relationship has ended irrevocably.

Act V

The same setting as in Act I. Before leaving the base, Phaedra is going with Phoebe to meet the pilots for the last time. Phoebe tells her about Philip's fight with the braggart. Phaedra now realizes the fatefulness of the double revenge. She has no hope that Philip will forgive her, but longs to see him once more. The mechanic enters and reports with concern that they have lost contact with one plane - it is Philip's plane. But he assures the girls that this "doesn't necessarily mean anything." Phaedra looks for Philip among the arriving pilots. They pay no attention to her. Phoebe reports that the car that is to take Phaedra to the harbor is waiting for her. Phaedra asks that the car wait just a moment longer. Regretfully she recalls her lost love. She thinks she sees Philip on the airfield. She goes toward him but encounters the doctor, who puts his arm around her shoulder in a fatherly gesture. They slowly walk away.