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Exciting New Opera to see this Fall

Despite an uncertain Fall ahead – there is no shortage of great contemporary opera premiering around the country!

Check out some that caught our eye:

Hosted at a Studio Friction in Denver, a studio specializing in aerial arts, Nathan Hall is directing a contemporary opera called “Unbound”, a multimedia, musical kink show about a gay man’s exploration of sexual desire and search for sexual fantasy.

The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA will produce the West Coast premiere of “Sun & Sea,” which addresses climate change in “what could best be described as an operatic lament about the disintegration of our planet.” The creative team of director Rugilė Barzdžiukaitė, librettist Vaiva Grainytė, and composer Lina Lapelytė are all Lithuanian women.

Opera in the Rock in is opening its 2021-22 season with Derrick Wang’s one-act contemporary opera “Scalia/Ginsburg,” which of course highlights one of the most peculiar friendships in modern politics.

And right here at home, we’re premiering our latest commission: Shawn Okpebholo and Marcus Amaker’s Unknown honors the centenary of the Tomb of the Unknown soldier in Arlington National Cemetery. The World Premiere is Tuesday, October 5 at The Barns at Wolf Trap – and stay tuned for a film production in November!

No doubt about it: opera is a hot ticket and we are here for it. What else is on your radar this fall?

 

Operas you can watch on YouTube!

Beat the late Summer heat with Opera Night at home!

Here are some full-length operas you can stream right now for free on YouTube:

Teatro Comunale Luciano Pavarotti’s 2021 concert production of “Don Carlo” was presented in honor of Italian Soprano Mirella Freni and her husband, Bass Nicolai Ghiaurov.

This production of Rossini’s “Semiramide” from Venice’s La Fenice Opera House – the very same Opera House in which the work premiered 1823!

This traditional Aida from San Francisco Opera stars two of the greatest opera names of the 20th century. Sam Wanamaker’s 1981 production with Luciano Pavarotti as Radames and Margaret Price as Aida is available to watch right on YouTube!

Puccini’s comedic one-act masterpiece Gianni Schicchi tells the story of a man who successfully impersonates another with surprising results. This production from 2017 premiered at the Butte Music Festival.

Art is Political

 

dwb (driving while black)

“Driving while black”

One is the title of the opera by Susan Kander and Roberta Gumbel that we are presenting at the end of the month. The other is a phrase Black Americans have used for years to encapsulate the injustice, fear, and danger they encounter on a regular basis while simply going about their lives.

Susan and Roberta wrote the piece in 2015, inspired by their conversations surrounding their own sons’ coming of driving age and by the general awareness of Black parents of what it means to put their child behind the wheel of a car. They were making an artistic and political statement by writing the opera on this subject.

UrbanArias Founder and Artistic Director Bob Wood programmed dwb into the 2020-2021 season because it is an excellent work which tells a story of today’s America (and, of course, it is short and new). He was making an artistic and political statement by including the work in our season.

George Floyd's face projected onto Confederate monument

Soprano Karen Slack and filmmakers Du’Bois and Camry A’Keen were making artistic and political statements by signing on to star in and create a film version of the opera.

All these subtle political statements happened before Black Lives Matter exploded in mid-2020, becoming a global movement fueled by the collective outrage surrounding the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many others. Artists and companies around the country and around the world came forward with written statements speaking out against the unjust fears our Black and Brown colleagues and friends face daily.

And now, just this week, we have seen two more horrific examples of this fear, the fear of Driving While Black, come to life. Army 2nd Lieutenant Caron Nazario, pepper-sprayed after being pulled over in his new car, and Daunte Wright, killed when a police officer used her gun instead of her taser.

As the director of a company presenting an opera entitled dwb (driving while black) in this moment, I am keenly aware of the line we are walking between art and politics. Toni Morrison once said “All good art is political! There is none that isn’t. And the ones that try hard not to be political are political by saying, ‘We love the status quo.’”

As we present this beautiful film, we are saying loudly and clearly that we do not love the status quo. We do not love seeing yet another “beautiful brown boy,” as The Mother in dwb calls her son, killed in an act of senseless violence. We do not love a system which routinely thwarts justice by allowing perpetrators to go largely unpunished while the lives of innocent people are destroyed.

Art is political, one way or another. We are choosing to be political on the side of change.

 

Anne-Carolyn Bird
Executive Director

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See (dwb) driving while black as part of the
Black Femme Supremacy Film Festival

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