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Des Moines Metro Opera Announces Dr. Naomi André As Scholar-In-Residence

Humanities Iowa Grant enables exploration of themes of gender and race presented in the operas selected for DMMO's 50th Anniversary Season. 

Des Moines Metro Opera Announces Dr. Naomi André As Scholar-In-Residence

Des Moines Metro Opera (DMMO) names Dr. Naomi André as Scholar-in-Residence for the 2022 Festival Season. The residency is made possible through a Humanities Iowa Grant from the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs.

André is Professor in Women's Studies, the Department of Afroamerican and African Studies, and the Residential College Arts and Ideas in the Humanities program at the University of Michigan. She received her BA in music from Barnard College and MA and PhD in musicology from Harvard University. She is the author of Black Opera: History, Power, Engagement which has quickly become a leading work in the opera field. She is also author of Voicing Gender: Castrati, Travesti, and the Second Woman in Early-Nineteenth-Century Italian Opera and coeditor of Blackness in Opera.

As DMMO's inaugural Scholar-in-Residence, Dr. André will create and participate in a series of podcasts, lead important conversations, provide previews and curate special events focused on her research on opera and issues surrounding gender, voice, and race.

"In the heartland of the Midwest, this summer in Iowa we have the opportunity to explore different worlds that encompass the heat of Charleston's Catfish Row, the clash of race in John Singer Sargent's representation of America's northeastern elite, and the inner family drama of Jane Smiley's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel set on an Iowa farm. Woven between two works are Shakespearean worlds in Britten's setting of A Midsummer Night's Dream and a thinly veiled King Lear in Kuster and Campbell's collaboration in A Thousand Acres," André said. "I am thrilled to have the opportunity to experience such a sophisticated, lyrical, and carefully curated summer opera festival where the drama, music, and atmosphere present a welcoming environment for experienced and newer audiences who are looking for classics, innovation, and provocative ideas."

Public Events

Then and Now: Porgy and Bess in 2022

June 2, 2022; 7pm; Turner Jazz Center, Drake University

Dr. Naomi André will lead a conversation along with company members from DMMO's upcoming production as they share their perspectives on the celebrated opera. The panelists will discuss topics central to why Porgy and Bess has been a challenging opera since it first opened in 1935-including cultural representation and the marginalization of Black communities. In addition, the panel will provide perspective about the role of Porgy and Bess today, and how it might assist the opera community in its efforts to make the artform more inclusive. Selections from the opera will be performed. RSVP for this event here.

Creators in Conversation

July 9, 2022; 1:30pm; Sheslow Auditorium, Drake University

Only hours before the world premiere of Kristin Kuster and Mark Campbell's A Thousand Acres, Dr. Naomi André will moderate a panel discussion between Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jane Smiley and members of the opera's creative team to reflect on the musical and dramatic setting of the novel. RSVP for this event here.

Singing Black Stories: A Concert of Selected Works

July 16, 2022; 2pm; Franklin Jr. High

In a specially curated performance, Dr. Naomi André and members of the DMMO Apprentice Artist Program come together for a lecture and performance of selected works by Black composers including Terence Blanchard, William Grant Still, Shawn Okpebholo, and Nkeiru Okoye. Selections presented represent works of historic importance, contemporary compositions and personal significance for the performing artists. RSVP for this event here.

American Apollo

July 20, 21, 23, 2022; Des Moines Art Center

Dr. Naomi André will conclude her DMMO residency at the Des Moines Arts Center with preview performances of American Apollo, a new chamber opera by Damien Geter and Lila Palmer that gives voice to a pivotal figure in American art: Thomas Eugene McKeller, a Black model who served as inspiration for the famous portraitist, John Singer Sargent. André will participate in a talkback with members of the opera's creative team and Dr. Nathaniel Silver, curator at Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in anticipation of the work's 2024 debut as a full-length opera. Tickets for American Apollo are available here.

"Dr. André's research and scholarship places opera squarely at the intersection of today's most challenging ideas and issues, such as racial equity and gender representation. Her expertise aligns perfectly with the themes of the four operas we will present this summer," DMMO General and Artistic Director Michael Egel said. "I am delighted that she accepted our invitation to add dialogue, scholarship and context to our season through public discussions, podcasts, interviews, performances and lectures."

For more information and to RSVP for events during Dr. Naomi André's Des Moines Metro Opera residency, visit dmmo.org/scholar.

Lauded by the Chicago Tribune as "one of the most enterprising summer opera fests in the nation," Des Moines Metro Opera is a progressive opera company located in the heart of Iowa that has taken its place among America's leading opera festivals. Founded in 1973, it is one of the largest performing arts organizations in Iowa, annually producing over 100 performances in the metro area and across the region. Des Moines Metro Opera's 50th Anniversary Season includes the Iowa premiere of the Komische Oper Berlin's production of Mozart's The Magic Flute in early March, and the summer festival includes a new production of Benjamin Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream, the Iowa premiere and new production of The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess, the world premiere of Kuster/Campbell's A Thousand Acres, and the live performance premiere of Geter/Palmer's American Apollo.

More information about Des Moines Metro Opera is available at www.desmoinesmetroopera.org.



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