On April 18, NationalSawdust+ presents an evening of music, spoken word, and conversation linked to the writings of James Baldwin and Ta-Nehisi Coates. The timely and provocative program features arias from Jeanine Tesori and Tazewell Thompson’s new opera Blue, which premieres this summer, as well as excerpt readings from the recent theatrical adaptation of Coates’s watershed book, Between the World and Me, produced by the Apollo Theater; the book, published in 2015, transformed the conversation about race in America. Tesori will be joined by Coates’s One World editor Chris Jackson; Kamilah Forbes, who developed and directed the adaptation; Richard Gray, a social justice advocate working with community residents and youth to fight for equity in public education; and NationalSawdust+’s Elena Park, who will moderate the conversation.
With Tesori at the piano, mezzo-soprano Briana Hunter will perform two excerpts from Blue, commissioned by the Glimmerglass Festival, where the opera will debut in July. Tesori and Thompson’s opera is inspired by contemporary events as well as the Coates book, lovingly written by a concerned father for his son, and Baldwin’s seminal The Fire Next Time (1963), in which Baldwin addressed his nephew. Blue brings audiences into the emotional epicenter of an African-American couple — a father and a mother — who lose their teenage son when he is killed by a police officer.
Lauren Whitehead will perform excerpts from the recent adaptation of Coates’s book; conceived by Forbes with dramaturgy by Whitehead, the work was co-commissioned by the Apollo Theater and the Kennedy Center.
Special thanks to the Glimmerglass Festival and the Apollo Theater.
BLUE AND MORE
Blue, a new opera by Jeanine Tesori and Tazewell Thompson, centers on the hopes and fears of a young black couple as they raise a son in 21st-century America. In this story of love and loss, we see the father, a police officer, and the mother supported by a loving community of fellow law enforcement, churchgoers and friends as they navigate a devastating reality.
“The times are fraught. Lit by lightning and divisiveness. Love, family, friends and the church are there when we need them. And we need them now. We need a song to soothe our sorrows as we confront painful, personal truths. We need music in our lives and our children near to help us repair heartache; music to ultimately lift us and celebrate the bonds of sisterhood and brotherhood togetherness,” says librettist and director Tazewell Thompson.
Blue, commissioned by the Glimmerglass Festival, is a new co-production with Washington National Opera and Lyric Opera of Chicago.