Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Jubilee Synopsis

© Philip Newton

Created and directed by Tazewell Thompson
Vocal arrangements by Dianne Adams McDowell
Orchestrated by Michael Ellis Ingram

Nineteenth century. A theater in Nashville, Tennessee. Thirteen members of The Fisk Jubilee Singers are gathering behind the curtain in vocal warmups, preparing to perform their concert of Spirituals. Post show, the singers retreat to the old military barracks set aside by northern abolitionists to house former slaves, now students and teachers of The Fisk Colored School. Eventually changed to Fisk University.

Friday, January 12, 2024

X: The Life & Times of Malcolm X Synopsis

© Micah Shumake

Music by Anthony Davis
Libretto by Thulani Davis
Story by Christopher Davis


Scene 1: 1931, Lansing, Michigan
At the home of Reverend Earl

Little and his wife Louise, a meeting is taking place of the local chapter of Marcus Garvey's Universal Improvement Association, and Rev. Little is late. Louise has been tense all day and members of the meeting are concerned about active white supremacist groups terrorizing local people.

Friday, December 1, 2023

Competition Announcement: Malcolm X Arts & Writing Competition

USA. Illinois. Chicago. Malcolm X during his visit to enterprises owned by Black Muslims. 1962.
© Eve Arnold/Magnum Photos

This spring, Seattle Opera is presenting the West Coast premiere of X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X. To encourage students to celebrate and engage with this work and Malcolm X’s legacy, we have created this competition for high school juniors and seniors in Washington State. All students, including home-school and charter students, are invited to submit their essays, poems, and visual artwork responding to the following prompt:

What aspect of Malcolm X’s legacy has had the greatest impact on our society today?

The first-place winner in each category will be awarded $500. The first-place winners and first runners up for each category will be invited to present their submissions before one of Seattle Opera’s performances of X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X at McCaw Hall, and their submissions will be showcased in McCaw Hall during the entire run of the opera, February 24—March 9, 2024.

Monday, October 30, 2023

Art Inspired by the Life of Malcolm X

Harlem, New York Rally, 1963
© Gordan Parks Foundation

Malcolm X’s influence permeates American social, political, and cultural life. Many cities have a Malcolm X street, avenue, or boulevard. Plenty of schools, libraries, and other public buildings are named in his honor. What’s more, many artists have been inspired by the human rights leader’s life and philosophies. They have created music, visual art, plays, film, and literary works. Here are just a few examples of their artistic output.

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

A Conversation with Kenneth Kellogg

© Kenneth Kellogg

Bass Kenneth Kellogg, who recently gave a breakout performance as Fafner in our production of Das Rheingold in August, discusses his upcoming portrayal of Malcolm X in this conversation with Seattle Opera. Kenneth talks about his admiration for the human rights leader, the revival of Anthony Davis’s X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X, and how he’s preparing for the role.

Friday, October 6, 2023

Alcina’s Literary Origin

By Jonathan Dean

Vintage line drawing of the Italian poet Ludovico Ariosto (1474–1533), who is famous for his epic Orlando furioso.

The troubled and troubling love-life of the seductive sorceress Alcina was first chronicled in the greatest epic poem you probably don't know: Orlando furioso by Ludovico Ariosto. Written in flowing octaves of luscious Italian between 1506 and 1532, this sprawling saga spins a vast spiderweb-like story of ladies and knights, love and weapons, courage and chivalry over some 600 pages. In a way it’s an Italian answer to the British legends of King Arthur, Merlin, and the rest. (Merlin, in fact, puts in an appearance early on in Orlando furioso, prophesying to Bradamante that she and Ruggiero will wed and found a mighty family. Ariosto compliments his noble patron, Duke Este of Ferrara, by making Ruggiero and Bradamante his ancestors.)

Monday, October 2, 2023

From the Stage to the Podium

Rehearsals are underway at Seattle Opera for Alcina, George Frideric Handel’s spellbinding story of sorcery and seduction. At the helm is conductor Christine Brandes, who, despite making her Seattle Opera conducting debut in this production, has performed at Seattle Opera before—as a singer. In a recent profile by Joanne Sydney Lessner in Opera News, Brandes detailed the process that brought her from the stage into the pit.

Monday, September 18, 2023

Alcina’s Gender Jumble

By Joshua D. Gailey

The homoerotic undertones highlighted by Alcina’s cross-dressing plot has made the opera a favorite among queer opera fans. © James Glossop / Opera North.

On Alcina’s magic island, nothing is certain; feelings are fickle, ex-lovers are transformed into beasts, and the island itself is but an illusion. Even gender is unstable: the opera’s intricate story features a woman disguising herself as a man to rescue her fiancé—a role that was written for a castrato, commonly performed by a mezzo-soprano, and played in our production by a countertenor. To top it all off, our production gender-swaps a character, Melissa, to match her gender in the source text, Ludovico Ariosto’s Orlando furioso. Although cross-dressing was a common attribute of 17th- and 18th-century opera seria, the level of gender play in Alcina is nonetheless striking for modern audiences, and has even led some viewers to regard Handel as the “queerest of opera composers.”

Friday, September 1, 2023

Racial Equity and Social Impact Plan: Progress Report—Year Two

Last season, Seattle Opera presented the world premiere of A Thousand Splendid Suns, an opera based on the bestselling novel by Khaled Hosseini. © Philip Newton

In 2019, Seattle Opera embarked on a plan to address institutional racism and to engage the community in ways that centers People of Color within the art form and beyond. Soon afterwards, the company launched its Racial Equity Social Impact (RESI) plan. The plan established goals and initiatives designed to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion at Seattle Opera, the opera industry, and our community in general.

As we enter the third year of the plan, it’s our privilege to report the company’s progress. This report highlights new and ongoing initiatives, such as the Seattle Arts Fellows, Sensory Friendly and Relaxed Performances and Building for Equity. These and other projects reflect Seattle Opera’s commitment to all human difference and social identities, to fair and just practices, and to openness and belonging.

Monday, August 21, 2023

A Conversation with the Creators of X

During a talkback session after a performance of X:The Life and Times of Malcolm X at Detroit Opera, the Davises discuss the genesis of the opera with a group of students from Michigan State University.
© Detroit Opera/Austin Richey

During a break in their busy schedules, Seattle Opera brought together composer Anthony Davis, librettist Thulani Davis, and story writer Christopher Davis to discuss the genesis of X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X. It was a lively conversation, much like a family reunion, because the Davises are related. As they reminisced on the many milestones that marked the developments of the opera, Anthony, Thulani, and Christopher recalled the people and circumstances that shaped the opera.