Monday, November 1, 2021

Why Blue matters to the artists

Tazewell Thompson, Briana Hunter, and Kenneth Kellogg. 
A story of love, loss, church, and sisterhood, the opera Blue depicts a young African American couple celebrating the joy of family with the birth of their son. Later they lean on close-knit community in the wake of their son’s death at the hands of a police officer. Some of the artists involved with Seattle Opera's 2022 production share more about why this award-winning piece is more than an operait's deeply personal. Hear from Tazewell Thompson (librettist and winner of five NAACP Awards, plus two Emmy nominations), Kenneth Kellogg (The Father) and Briana Hunter (The Mother). 

Testimonials were collected from a variety of different media interviews and film segments related to Blue. This is the second of two posts on Why Blue Matters, in the artists' own words.

"I'm hoping that when they see Blue, every member of the audience will hold their precious ones in their lives." 
Tazewell Thompson (Washington National Opera video)

"Black love, community, and relationships are the real heart and soul of this opera. It opens you up in a way that are, hopefully, life changing. When we first performed it, people came up to me afterwards in tears, thanking me. I believe Blue is a life-changing experience."  
— Kenneth Kellogg (Seattle Opera blog)

Blue was an amazing outlet just for grieving. Being in that room with so many amazing Black artists, and being able to process the collective trauma that we’ve inherited and that we still experience in the current environment, it became a respite. And singing the role of the Mother — I mean, I get to wail. So every night, it was real for a new reason.” 
— Briana Hunter (Washington Post)

"At the time I got asked to do this production, it was at the height of many police shootings. Yes that happens. But (Blue) is more than that. It's not an attack on police. It's not an attack on the system. It's about how a Black family deals. It's about the love and support of a community. Having to build themselves up. Having to deal with pain. Having to continue after tragedy. It's really a story of love and endurance. It's very personal. Blue has been more than opera for me. It's become a sense of purpose. And a mission. To tell a story from a Black experience that hasn't been told before and needs to be told. this is too important of a piece to miss."  

Briana Hunter (The Mother) and Kenneth Kellogg (The Father) in Blue. Credit: Karli Cadel / The Glimmerglass Festival

"These are conversations and grievances and emotions I’m used to having, it’s a very strange feeling to actually be heard. In the breakdown scene, the mother says 'uselessly I water this plant of hope / for we are not one of God’s favorites / please God see me, hear me.' The pain is usually experienced in a void. Now that the world has heard the cries of a black man begging for his mother in his final moments. I feel people not being able to look away. This line, 'see me, hear me' has even more significance, it belies the undercurrent of the moment. We are dying. We are losing our sons and daughters. Please pay attention. Please stand with us. Please make sure justice is done." 
— Briana Hunter (OperaWire)

"I want the audience to see that the family in this opera is really no different from their own in that they work for the best and want the best for themselves and their community. The Mother runs a restaurant with love and pride for her ancestral cuisine and its ability to connect people. The Father is a police officer because we want to ensure a safe environment for his community. The son is a college-bound teenager full of ambition to change the world. What makes them different are the fights they must take on based on the color of their skin, on a daily basis, which prevents them from living full lives."  
— Kenneth Kellogg (OperaWire)

"Blue has been referred to as a 'protest opera' and 'the opera about police violence.' I suppose both are true. But I did not set out with that goal. I wrote it from an obsessive need and sense of responsibility to tell an intimate story behind the numbing numbers of boys and men who are killed. Unfortunately, the themes in Blue have no expiration date. I add my voice to those of the characters singing in the opera, and to those of the real families suffering great losses. Our eyes will never be free of tears." 
— Tazewell Thompson (The New York Times

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

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