Houston Grand Opera Will Present 68th World Premiere with HGOco-Commissioned MARIAN'S SONG
Houston Grand Opera (HGO) will present its 68th world premiere Marian's Song, composed by Damien Sneed to a libretto by Deborah D.E.E.P Mouton, Houston's poet laureate emeritus. The opera will run for two nights only, March 5 and 6 in the Cullen Theater of the Wortham Theater Center, both at 7 p.m.
The opera is based on the life of Marian Anderson, one of the most celebrated singers of the 20th century, who broke racial barriers throughout her storied career. The world premiere is an innovative fusion of opera, spoken word, and multimedia projections to bring to life the incredible story of Marian Anderson. The cast includes HGO Studio Alumna Zoie Reams as Marian Anderson, Tina B as Neveah, current Studio artist Nicholas Newton as Billy King, and Cynthia Clayton as Eleanor Roosevelt/Mrs. Roberts. Dennis Whitehead Darling is the director.
"Bringing Anderson's story to the forefront of our minds was necessary for me. To see a singer of such grace and humility navigate the harsh world around her, gives hope, for our generation, that we can too be unstoppable and make change," comments Mouton.
"It is an honor to be commissioned by Houston Grand Opera to compose an opera about the life of one of the greatest African American artists ever. And working with the librettist Deborah Mouton has been an exciting journey. My prayer is that this work would live on for many years to come," said Sneed.
Born in 1897, Anderson was a singer of classical music and spirituals from an early age and was later deemed one of the finest contraltos of her time. She broke racial barriers for African American artists throughout her career,
becoming the first black person, American or otherwise, to perform at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City on January 7, 1955. Her performance as Ulrica in Verdi's Un ballo in maschera at the Met was the only time she sang an opera role on stage. Anderson was exceptionally popular in Europe, and among her myriad honors and awards were the National Medal of Arts in 1986 and the U.S. music industry's Grammy Award for Lifetime Achievement in 1991.
"Opera, like all art forms, has always been a product of its time and the beautiful way that Damien and Deborah bring contemporary relevance to this important story by weaving spoken word with traditional classical music and well-known spirituals is remarkable," says Carleen Graham, director of HGOco, the company's community and learning initiative. "We are thrilled to premiere this important work that will share Ms. Anderson's story with a whole new generation."
Houston Grand Opera is one of the largest, most innovative, and most highly acclaimed opera companies in the United States. In fulfilling its mission to advance the operatic art to serve an ever-evolving audience, HGO leads the field in commissioning new works (67 world premieres to date) and in training and nurturing promising young artists and administrators.
The company contributes to the cultural enrichment of Houston and the nation through a diverse and innovative program of performances, community events, and education projects that reaches the widest possible public. HGO's pioneering community engagement initiative, HGOco, has served as a model for other arts organizations.
Tickets for Marian's Song range from $15 - $50 and are on sale now at houstongrandopera.org/marian
Photo Credit: Lynne Lane