A Malcolm X Opera Will Get a Rare Revival in Detroit

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lennygoran
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A Malcolm X Opera Will Get a Rare Revival in Detroit

Post by lennygoran » Thu Mar 25, 2021 6:35 am

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A Malcolm X Opera Will Get a Rare Revival in Detroit

Michigan Opera Theater announced the return of indoor performances and named an associate artistic director: the star soprano Christine Goerke.



By Joshua Barone
March 23, 2021

When Anthony Davis’s sprawling, genre-blending biographical opera “X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X” premiered in 1986 at New York City Opera, it drew a notably diverse audience and was considered a commercial success. Yet it has rarely been revived.

A new production is coming, though, as part of Michigan Opera Theater’s 2021-22 season — the first under its new artistic director, Yuval Sharon. Opening in May 2022, “X” will be directed by Robert O’Hara (“Slave Play”) and star the bass-baritone Davóne Tines, who will also be the season’s artist in residence.

“My first interview for this job was shortly after the murder of George Floyd,” Sharon, who is also an innovative stage director, said in an interview. “I thought: This is a moment for change. Casting singers of color is really easy, but my focus has been on composers, librettists, conductors. I’m thinking about this season as a statement of principles, and that’s what I hope for going forward.”

As part of the season announcement, on Tuesday, Michigan Opera Theater also said that Christine Goerke, a reigning Wagnerian soprano who sang the role of Brünnhilde last fall in “Twilight: Gods” — Sharon’s drive-through abridgment of “Götterdämmerung” in a Detroit parking garage — would join next season as associate artistic director.

In an interview, Goerke said that her family would be moving from New Jersey to Detroit, where she has relatives. But, aware that the news of her appointment might surprise fans of her performances, she clarified that she didn’t plan to reduce her performance schedule any time soon.



“I’m not stepping away from singing,” she said. “I’m stepping toward what’s going to come eventually.”

“I’ve been doing this for 27 years,” she added. “We’re always thinking about what’s next. And I want to be on the other side of the desk. My relationship to opera is not going to end when I’m done singing.”


All of the productions next season come with backup plans, as the course of the coronavirus pandemic appears hopeful yet is still uncertain. But what Michigan Opera Theater unveiled on Tuesday puts off a return to live indoor performances at the Detroit Opera House until at least April 2022.

Until then, productions will be staged outdoors, or at unconventional venues. The season will open on May 15 with a concert performance of Mascagni’s “Cavalleria Rusticana,” with Goerke making her role debut as Santuzza. It will be presented at the Meadow Brook Amphitheater in Rochester Hills, Mich., and conducted by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra music director Jader Bignamini.

In September, Jeanine Tesori and Tazewell Thompson’s opera “Blue,” about a family in Harlem navigating the American Black experience, will receive a new production, by Kaneza Schaal, following its premiere at the Glimmerglass Festival in 2019; Daniela Candillari will conduct. The location and timing have not yet been determined, but the following production, staged by Sharon, will be “Bliss,” Ragnar Kjartansson’s marathon performance piece that loops the same three minutes from Mozart’s “Le Nozze di Figaro” for 12 hours.

Michigan Opera Theater will return indoors on Feb. 26 for Robert Xavier Rodríguez and Migdalia Cruz’s “Frida,” conducted by Suzanne Mallare Acton, the company’s assistant music director. It will be a revival of Jose Maria Condemi’s 2015 staging, performed at Music Hall in downtown Detroit.

Then the company will return to its theater, the Detroit Opera House, on April 2, for Sharon’s production of “La Bohème,” conducted by Vimbayi Kaziboni. The concept is something Sharon has discussed in interviews before: He will present the four acts of Puccini’s opera in reverse.

“The reverse order means that we’re starting with death, and ending with love and hope,” he said. “We’ll all be coming from a place of death — at least I hope that this will be post-Covid. And I love that this thing everyone is hearing, the first thing in the theater in two years, is something they’ve never heard.”

“X,” in a newly revised score by Davis, will bring the season to a close in May, conducted by Kazem Abdullah. Writing for The New Yorker after Davis won the Pulitzer Prize for Music last year, the musicologist Ryan Ebright noted that the opera had received only one full revival, at Oakland Opera Theater, in 2006. San Francisco Opera once suggested that “X” be staged as part of its inner-city parks performances, and Davis countered by asking whether they would put on Philip Glass’s “Einstein on the Beach” in a park.

“I tried to make them realize,” Davis told Ebright, “that it’s about time that America got over thinking of Black art as being what’s done in the playground, or what’s basically the social-service part of culture.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/23/arts ... troit.html

maestrob
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Re: A Malcolm X Opera Will Get a Rare Revival in Detroit

Post by maestrob » Thu Mar 25, 2021 7:52 am

This is interesting news, Len, and I'm glad it's happening.

Also intriguing is the news that Christine Goerke is entering the administration phase of her career. I do hope that things work out well for her.

lennygoran
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Re: A Malcolm X Opera Will Get a Rare Revival in Detroit

Post by lennygoran » Thu Mar 25, 2021 8:09 am

maestrob wrote:
Thu Mar 25, 2021 7:52 am
This is interesting news, Len, and I'm glad it's happening.

Brian I wasn't aware of this opera done by NYCO and youtube provided a lecture and also some musical arias starting after 5 minutes--when he was arrested and a street aria-also I wasn't aware of Opera America. Regards, Len

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JY-MniKGHtQ

maestrob
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Joined: Tue Sep 16, 2008 11:30 am

Re: A Malcolm X Opera Will Get a Rare Revival in Detroit

Post by maestrob » Thu Mar 25, 2021 8:13 am

lennygoran wrote:
Thu Mar 25, 2021 8:09 am
maestrob wrote:
Thu Mar 25, 2021 7:52 am
This is interesting news, Len, and I'm glad it's happening.

Brian I wasn't aware of this opera done by NYCO and youtube provided a lecture and also some musical arias starting after 5 minutes--when he was arrested and a street aria-also I wasn't aware of Opera America. Regards, Len

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JY-MniKGHtQ
Opera America is really an organization for professionals in the field of opera, no reason you should have heard of it. They publish an annual directory of musicians, opera companies and their titled staff, etc. I was listed there while I was running/conducting my competition in Carnegie Hall decades ago. One of my Board Members was also on the board of Opera America and AGMA as well.

Modernistfan
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Re: A Malcolm X Opera Will Get a Rare Revival in Detroit

Post by Modernistfan » Thu Mar 25, 2021 8:26 am

Why have none of Anthony Davis's operas ever been performed at the Met? He is one of America's most distinguished opera composers, but as far as the Met is concerned, he doesn't exist. They prattle about "diversity" but don't do anything to promote it.

lennygoran
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Location: new york city

Re: A Malcolm X Opera Will Get a Rare Revival in Detroit

Post by lennygoran » Thu Mar 25, 2021 9:09 am

Modernistfan wrote:
Thu Mar 25, 2021 8:26 am
Why have none of Anthony Davis's operas ever been performed at the Met? He is one of America's most distinguished opera composers, but as far as the Met is concerned, he doesn't exist. They prattle about "diversity" but don't do anything to promote it.
I have to confess I was barely familiar with him or his 3 operas-I'd go see them if they came around:
C

The Central Park Five (opera)

W

Wakonda's Dream

X

X, The Life and Times of Malcolm X

Regards, Len

maestrob
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Joined: Tue Sep 16, 2008 11:30 am

Re: A Malcolm X Opera Will Get a Rare Revival in Detroit

Post by maestrob » Thu Mar 25, 2021 12:22 pm

Modernistfan wrote:
Thu Mar 25, 2021 8:26 am
Why have none of Anthony Davis's operas ever been performed at the Met? He is one of America's most distinguished opera composers, but as far as the Met is concerned, he doesn't exist. They prattle about "diversity" but don't do anything to promote it.
Just remember who was in charge there until recently, and his attitude towards contemporary works.

I remember vividly a long conversation on this very topic I had with the box office treasurer at the MET, Al Green, in the mid-1980's. I brought up several ideas, including a production of Carlysle Floyd's "Susanna," and a revival of Britten's Death in Venice, which had its premiere in 1975 with Peter Pears to great success, and even that was shot down. In fact, Dead Man Walking had to premiere at New York City Opera (with one of my Finalists in the title role) because the MET wouldn't even consider it.

In fact, IIRC, Tan Dun's opera "The First Emperor" was mounted only because Placido Domingo wanted to sing the title role.

Imagining anything by a Black composer being produced there was quite impossible then. Even though there were discussions about mounting Porgy & Bess at the old MET in 1939, it was deemed "too costly" and plans were scrapped!

We've waited far too long.

Modernistfan
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Re: A Malcolm X Opera Will Get a Rare Revival in Detroit

Post by Modernistfan » Thu Mar 25, 2021 1:39 pm

Agreed. One problem that I have pointed out before is that Black composers are expected to write in a highly folk-influenced style along the lines of William Grant Still in his Afro-American Symphony, and, although Anthony Davis certainly uses influences, styles, and motifs from jazz and the blues, he mixes them with techniques associated with composers such as Schoenberg and Stravinsky. Somehow, this is not acceptable, whereas it seems to be acceptable for white composers such as Gershwin and Bernstein, just to name a few, to borrow from jazz. In fact, if you played Still's Afro-American Symphony to a random audience without identifying the work or its composer, the name that 95% of the audience would come up with is "Gershwin"!

Be that as it may, the Met is certainly way behind the times with respect to this. They talk the talk (and spend a lot of money to hire an executive in charge of diversity), but don't walk the walk.

maestrob
Posts: 10149
Joined: Tue Sep 16, 2008 11:30 am

Re: A Malcolm X Opera Will Get a Rare Revival in Detroit

Post by maestrob » Thu Mar 25, 2021 2:20 pm

Modernistfan wrote:
Thu Mar 25, 2021 1:39 pm
Agreed. One problem that I have pointed out before is that Black composers are expected to write in a highly folk-influenced style along the lines of William Grant Still in his Afro-American Symphony, and, although Anthony Davis certainly uses influences, styles, and motifs from jazz and the blues, he mixes them with techniques associated with composers such as Schoenberg and Stravinsky. Somehow, this is not acceptable, whereas it seems to be acceptable for white composers such as Gershwin and Bernstein, just to name a few, to borrow from jazz. In fact, if you played Still's Afro-American Symphony to a random audience without identifying the work or its composer, the name that 95% of the audience would come up with is "Gershwin"!

Be that as it may, the Met is certainly way behind the times with respect to this. They talk the talk (and spend a lot of money to hire an executive in charge of diversity), but don't walk the walk.
Speaking of William Grant Still, this superb album, a personal favorite, although recorded in 1992, is now available for streaming on amazon if you haven't heard it yet:

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