Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Crescendo for Racial Justice in Opera

Mary Elizabeth Williams (Tosca). Elise Bakketun photo

Seattle Opera presents online discussion ‘Crescendo for Racial Justice in Opera’ from noon-1:30 p.m. August 19, 2020. Online webinar via Zoom 

The global pandemic has created a setback for arts groups across the Pacific Northwest. But despite challenges, Seattle Opera is using this moment as an opportunity to create equity in their art form through its next Community Conversation: Crescendo for Racial Justice in Opera. Black, Asian, and Latinx opera professionals will come together to reflect on this moment in time, and envision a future for this 400-year-old art form which—while beloved all over the world—often contains dated or racist stereotypes. Can great works of the operatic canon like Madame Butterfly, Tosca, and Aida be vessels of liberation and representation for People of Color? How should opera change in the wake of COVID-19 shutdowns and the Black Lives Matter protests? Speakers will explore these question and more on August 19.

Opera, classical music, theater, and dance reflect cultures long-permeated by deep-seated inequities for Black people and other People of Color. The recent murders of George Floyd and others have laid bare the urgent need for systemic change in all aspects of society, with the arts being no exception. It’s a reckoning that comes at a time when opera houses are shuttered across the country.

“Right now is a chance to pause and reflect on opera, and on our industry,” said Alejandra Valarino Boyer, Director of Programs and Partnerships, who will moderate the discussion. “Our conversation will explore the possibilities of opera as a space of belonging, healing, and liberation for communities of color; speakers will lay the foundation for a future we believe in.”

Joining Valarino Boyer on the panel is internationally acclaimed mezzo-soprano J'Nai Bridges; Maestro Kazem Abdullah, scheduled to make his Seattle Opera debut in May 2021 with Tosca; Matthew Ozawa, opera stage director who previously spoke on Seattle Opera’s Madame Butterfly panel; and Naomi AndrĂ©, professor at the University of Michigan, Seattle Opera Scholar in Residence, and author of Black Opera: History, Power, Engagement.

Registration is not required for this event. To join the Zoom webinar and for more information, go to

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