“Fire”, the first work at Met by a black composer when the company returned

New York – “We bend, don’t break. Shake!” Sing the chorus in the second act of Terence Blanchard’s “Fire Shut Up in My Bones”.

It’s a groundbreaking performance on Monday night, the first staging piece at home since March 2020, and the first in the long history of the company it launched, among the approximately 4,000 audience of the Metropolitan Opera. I felt it when I saw it by a black composer. In 1883.

People imagine that many women wear evening dresses and jewels, most men wear black ties, and a few men wear white ties, tails, and top hats. After their absence, they greeted each other to celebrate their return to the Lincoln Center. ..

After a 566-day historic gap, the country’s largest performing arts organization resumed a gradual presentation at the beginning of the season, scheduled to run until June 11. The return attracted a much more diverse audience than attending a regular Met, with video screens from Times Square and Harlem’s Marcus Garvey Park.


Even before the “Star-Spangled Banner” was sung in shimmering treble, the orchestra initially had a slight applause. And after more than three hours, the cast, composer, scriptwriter Kasi Lemmons, the production team, and finally the 2014 memoirs are opera.

This night was a victory for Blanchard, a 59-year-old jazz trumpet player and composer from Louisiana who loves blows. The tragic story of isolated child sexual abuse in northern Louisiana in the 1970s is beautifully composed of shades and nuances of color.

“Tue” premiered at the St. Louis Opera Theater in 2019 and was brought to Met as part of a collaboration with the Lyric Opera of Chicago in March and the Los Angeles Opera in the upcoming season. (The last of the eight performances, Matinee at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on October 23, will be broadcast to cinemas around the world.)


This is Blanchard’s second opera following the 2013 “Champion” about boxer Emile Griffith, and the music is the most colorful and moving in the orchestra part. Sometimes, especially in the first act, vocal writing seems to be more restrained. “Wash Me Clean” and his memory of his youthful storm raises energy at the beginning of the second act of the Baptist Church.

There is a reference to what appears to be “Rives Nacht” in Wagner’s “Tristan und Isolde”. This is a duet of Charles and his girlfriend Greta, proclaiming, “I used to hate nights. Nights were my vowed enemy.” Then, taking up the theme of Blow’s book, Searching for Sexual Identity, Charles sang “I am I” near the end, and Jerry Herman and Harvey Fierstein’s 1984 Tony Award winner “La Cage”. It reminds me of “Ofor”. ..

Blanchard and Lemons condense mainly descriptive books at the crucial moments of Blow’s memoirs: the growth of the youngest of five children, the assault by cousin Chester, his baptism, the brutality of Grand Bring fraternity. Kasumi, and the quest for love between the first Evelyn and the subsequent Greta. The biggest reaction of the audience was to the dancing fraternity brothers who stopped the show.


Blanchard and Lemons move the plot by letting adult Charles (impressing baritone Will Riverman) sing alongside a young Charles known as Charles Baby. The 13-year-old Walter Russell III, who played the young Charles, gave the greatest personal cheers with a fascinating, insightful and inspiring star-making performance.

The all-black cast includes soprano Ratonia Moore as Charles’ beloved mother Billy, Destiny, Ronellines, Greta’s adorable triple-roll soprano Angel Blue, and Bass Baritone Ryan Speed ​​Green as a menacing ankle pole. I did.

Music director Yannick Neze-Segan wore a colorful shirt that was significantly different from his predecessor James Levine’s outfit, and chorus master Donald Palumbo performed vibrantly. Nezesegan, demonstrating his commitment to contemporary work rarely seen at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, will lead Matthew O’Coin’s “Uridice” in November.

Directors James Robinson and Camille A. Brown (she was also a choreographer) block a refreshing piece with a set of Allen Moyer dominated by two large squares that turn the stage on and off. bottom.

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“Fire”, the first work at Met by a black composer when the company returned

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