In November 2002, British composer Keith Burstein read about a terrorist bombing in Kenya. He thought that the attack was a reaction to the news of abusive treatment of prisoners of war in the American base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. As he wrote in an article (My opera from hell, June 25) for The Guardian:
Something has crystallised - I have decided to anatomise all of this with an opera. Opera x-rays the soul. With opera I can go inside the experience of those who wish to kill and kill themselves for their cause, inhabit their emotions, see the world through their eyes. I will start the opera with the idea that ordinary people commit to "martyrdom" as a way of expressing their belief in the Divine. Artists Against the War put an email out for me asking for a librettist. Many replies.He picked the playwright Dic Edwards to write the libretto, and they began work. The opera is called Manifest Destiny, and it received its first full performance on June 27, 2004, at the Tricycle Theatre in London, shortly after images of prisoner abuse in Abu Ghraib prison began to surface. The composer narrates the rest of the story in his article.
James Rampton previewed that performance in his article (The voices of Guantanamo, June 24) for The Independent, where we learn that Corin and Vanessa Redgrave supported the performance. They had formed the Guantánamo Human Rights Commission, to seek the release of British citizens from the prison on the base. Vanessa Thorpe's article (Terrorist opera set to storm the theatre world, May 25) in The Observer previewed the concert performance given on May 25 at the Cockpit Theatre in London. For its relevance to current events, she compared it to John Adams's opera The Death of Klinghoffer (see Ionarts review on May 2).