Originally Published in the New York Times on 09/19/2019
Written By: Michael Cooper
In its 136-year history, the Metropolitan Opera has never staged an opera by a black composer. But that will finally change: The company said on Thursday that it would present “Fire Shut Up in My Bones,” by the composer and jazz trumpeter Terence Blanchard, in a coming season.
“He’s a brilliant composer,” Peter Gelb, the Met’s general manager, said in a telephone interview.
Mr. Gelb made the announcement as the Met prepares to open its season on Monday with a new production of the Gershwins’ “Porgy and Bess.” The “Porgy” staging has brought renewed attention to the fact that the most-performed opera about the African-American experience was written by an all-white creative team, and has also served as a reminder of the historical dearth of opportunities for opera composers of color.
Mr. Gelb said that he had been in talks for months with Opera Theater of St. Louis, which gave the premiere of “Fire Shut Up in My Bones” in June, about bringing its production to New York. The director in St. Louis was James Robinson, who also staged the Met’s new “Porgy.”
“I wish my father was alive,” Mr. Blanchard said in a telephone interview. “He was an avid opera fanatic.”
“Fire Shut Up in My Bones” is based on a memoir by Charles Blow, an Opinion columnist for The New York Times, with a libretto by the writer and director Kasi Lemmons. In his review in The Times, Anthony Tommasini praised it as “subtly powerful.”
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