Friday, May 6, 2022

Black Opera

The Afro Future

By Naomi André, Ph.D.

In 2017, Opera Philadelphia presented We Shall Not Be Moved, a new work by composer Daniel Bernard Roumain and librettist Marc Bamuthi Joseph. The opera follows five North Philadelphia teens as they find refuge at the headquarters of the MOVE organization, where a 1985 standoff with police infamously ended with a neighborhood destroyed and 11 people dead.

In her final essay of this three-part series, Seattle Opera Scholar-in-Residence Naomi André speculates about the future of Black Opera. Using the lens of Afrofuturism—a cultural aesthetic that combines science-fiction, history, and fantasy to explore the African American experience and aims to connect those from the Black diaspora with their forgotten African ancestry—André charts one path forward. In this essay, she uses historic events, music, and the writings of Octavia E. Butler to point the way.

Naomi André is a professor in the University of Michigan, where her teaching and research focus on opera and issues surrounding gender, voice, and race. Her writings include topics on Italian opera, Schoenberg, women composers, and teaching opera in prisons. Her publications include Black Opera: History, Power, Engagement and African Performance Arts and Political Acts (2021), which she co-edited. She has served as Seattle Opera’s Scholar-in-Residence since 2019.

Thursday, March 24, 2022

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

“We are not custodians of the old order. We are not curators of establishment art. We must be oriented towards the future. It is our business to improve the quality of life. We had better become positive and not just stand by.”
–Glynn Ross, Founder of Seattle Opera, June 4, 1969

For nearly 60 years, Seattle Opera has used these words to guide creative innovations, to develop richer community partnerships, to increase access to the art form, and to enrich people’s lives. Today, these same words inspire our commitment to enhance diversity, equity, and inclusion in opera and the community that surrounds us. This report highlights Seattle Opera’s drive towards a more equitable art form and world.

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Director's Outlook: A Thousand Splendid Suns

By Roya Sadat

A Thousand Splendid Suns' Stage Director, Roya Sadat, shares her perspective on this new opera and how it reflects the culture of her native Afghanistan.

Roya Sadat is Afghanistan’s first woman film and television producer during the post-Taliban era and the winner of more than 20 international film awards, including the 2021 Kim Dae Jung Nobel Peace Film Award and the 2018 International Women of Courage Award presented by the United States Department of State. Sadat is among the BBC’s 100 Inspiring and Influential Women for 2021. Her three films—A Letter to the President (’17), Playing the Taar (’08), and Three Dots (’03)—have been invited to more than 60 International Film Festivals. A Letter to the President was selected as the official entry from Afghanistan for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 90th Academy Awards. In addition, she has produced eight documentary films, three television programs, as well as a music video.

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Praise for Blue

Read some of the reviews for Seattle Opera’s current production of Blue, from critics and audiences alike.

Photo credit: Philip Newton
Blue is the 2020 winner of Best New Opera from the Music Critics Association of North America, created by librettist Tazewell Thompson (five NAACP Awards, plus two Emmy nominations) and composer Jeanine Tesori (Tony-winner known for Fun Home). Seattle Opera's Blue runs Feb. 26 & 27 and March 2, 5, 9, 11, & 12, 2022 at McCaw Hall. Tickets & info at seattleopera.org/blue.

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

A Conversation with Sheila Silver

The Composer of A Thousand Splendid Suns

Sheila Silver is an important voice in American music today. An award-winning composer, she has written for solo instruments, large orchestra, opera, and feature film. Audiences and critics praise her music as powerful, emotionally charged, accessible, and masterfully conceived. “Only few composers in any generation enliven the art form with their musical language and herald new directions in music. Sheila Silver is such a visionary.” (Wetterauer Zeitung, Germany)
 
Sheila spoke with Seattle Opera over Zoom for a chat that covered her inspirations for composing A Thousand Splendid Suns, her deep dive into Hindustani music, growing up in Seattle, and more.

Friday, February 11, 2022

Black Opera

The Golden Age

By Naomi André, Ph.D.


Will Liverman as Charles M. Blow in The Metropolitan Opera's premiere of Fire Shut Up in My Bones by Terence Blanchard
Music scholar Naomi André describes the current state of Black Opera as the “Golden Age.” This is her second essay on Black Opera. André accounts the notable rise of African American singers and composers as well as the rise of productions that chronicle contemporary Black life. André’s first article appeared in the program of our recent production of La bohème. “Looking Back: A Historical Perspective” traces Black Opera beginning in the early 1800s through 1955. André's third essay—to be published in The Marriage of Figaro program—will speculate on the future of the genre.

Naomi André is a professor at the University of Michigan, where her teaching and research focuses on opera and issues of surrounding gender, voice, and race. Her writings include topics on Italian opera, Schoenberg, women composers, and teaching opera in prisons. Her publications include Black Opera: History, Power, Engagement and co-editor of African Performance Arts and Political Acts (2021). She has served as Seattle Opera’s Scholar-in-Residence since 2019.

Thursday, February 10, 2022

Black Opera

Looking Back: A Historical Perspective

By Naomi André, Ph.D.

The cast from National Negro Opera Company's 1941 production of Aida.

The opera world is currently presenting more productions that articulate African American experiences than ever before. Companies around the country are staging works such as Fire Shut Up in My Bones, Charlie Parker’s Yardbird, and The Central Park Five, to name a few. Therefore, Seattle Opera invited our Scholar-in-Residence, Naomi André, to place Black Opera in historical, contemporary, and future perspectives. This article by André is the first of a three-part series. In this essay, André highlights several historic milestones in Black Opera. Her second article—to be published in the Blue program—will investigate contemporary titles and artists. In her final piece—to be published in The Marriage of Figaro program—André will speculate on future Black Opera stories and productions.

 
Naomi André is a professor at the University of Michigan, where her teaching and research focuses on opera and issues surrounding gender, voice, and race. Her writings include topics on Italian opera, Schoenberg, women composers, and teaching opera in prisons. Her latest publication is Black Opera: History, Power, Engagement.

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

What Blue Means to Me

 Artists Reflect on this Groundbreaking Opera

From left: Joshua Stewart (The Son), Briana Hunter (The Mother), and Kenneth Kellogg (The Father). Credit: Philip Newton
The cast members of Seattle Opera's upcoming production of Blue shared with Seattle Opera the impact that performing this poignant new opera has had on their lives, both personally and professionally. This is the second of two posts on Why Blue Matters, in the artists' own words.

Blue
is the 2
020 winner of Best New Opera from the Music Critics Association of North America, created by librettist Tazewell Thompson (five NAACP Awards, plus two Emmy nominations) and composer Jeanine Tesori (Tony-winner known for Fun Home). Seattle Opera's Blue runs Feb. 26 & 27 and March 2, 5, 9, 11, & 12, 2022 at McCaw Hall. Tickets & info at seattleopera.org/blue.

Friday, January 14, 2022

Key'mon W. Murrah on Hope, Heroism, and what a Countertenor can be

Key'mon Murrah as Orpheus in Orpheus and Eurydice. Credit: Philip Newton
Keymon W. Murrah, a countertenor heralded for his wide range and “hot coal core of tone” by Schmopera.com, is a native of Louisville, Kentucky. In 2021, he was heard on the stage of The Houston Grand Opera as the 1st Place Winner of the 33rd Annual Concert of Arias, as the Grand Prize winner of the Premiere Opera Foundation + NYIOP International Vocal Competition, and Finalist and Encouragement award winner of Operalia. He makes his Seattle Opera debut as Orpheus in Orpheus and Eurydice and stays on for an Artist Recital on February 4.

Key’mon recently sat down with Seattle Opera over Zoom for a conversation that covered his journey to becoming an opera singer, the challenges of making a career as a countertenor, his interpretation of Orpheus, and his upcoming recital.

A Conversation with Carey Wong

Set Designer for Orpheus and Eurydice

In a conversation over Zoom, Orpheus and Eurydice’s set designer, Carey Wong, sat down with Seattle Opera to discuss how he got started in opera, his vision for the Orpheus sets, and what excites him about the future of theater.

Carey Wong has worked for over 45 years as a stage designer and arts administrator in the United States, Canada, and abroad. He has designed sets and/or costumes for over 300 productions of operas, plays, musicals, and ballets, as well as art installations and themed environments. Currently a freelance designer and theater consultant based in Gig Harbor, Washington, he began his career as General Production Manger and Resident Designer of Portland Opera for eight seasons. This was followed by two seasons as Artistic Administrator and Resident Designer at Opera Memphis. While at Portland Opera, Mr. Wong designed sets and costumes for 12 new productions including the American premiere of Ernst Krenek’s Life of Orestes (in an English translation by the composer commissioned for the premiere), the world premiere of Bernard Herrmann’s Wuthering Heights, and a rare staging of Carl Maria von Weber’s Der Freischütz. Three of his Portland productions were shared by Seattle Opera.