MOT to Celebrate 50th Season with Tazewell Thompson's BLUE

BLUE tells the story of a loving family struggling against increasing odds, as a father (and member of the NYPD) watches his son grow socially aware.

By: Aug. 16, 2021
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MOT to Celebrate 50th Season with Tazewell Thompson's BLUE

Celebrating 50 years, and the first full season under the artistic leadership of Gary L. Wasserman Artistic Director Yuval Sharon, Michigan Opera Theatre is poised to mount its first fully staged opera in nearly two years. The first full production in its 2021-2022 season, the opera company will present Tazewell Thompson's powerful opera, BLUE for two performances, September 11 & 12 both at 7PM at The Aretha Franklin Amphitheatre. Single tickets for MOT's fall opera season, which begins with BLUE, are on sale to the public on Monday, August 16.

Winner of the 2020 Music Critics Association of North America Award for Best Opera, BLUE is a new American opera that tells the story of a loving family struggling against increasing odds, as a father (and proud member of the NYPD) watches his son grow socially aware. Caught between them, the mother endures her own struggles as a peacemaker. Even with her family's beauty, talent, and success, she can never escape the painful knowledge that, every day, their lives are at stake. Through its richly evocative libretto by playwright Tazewell Thompson, and masterful score by composer Jeanine Tesori, BLUE offers an operatic telling of a story ripped from the headlines and all too familiar to far too many; it is an opera for today.

BLUE features an all-star cast, including Aaron Crouch (The Son), Kimwana Doner (Girlfriend #1/Nurse), Camron Gray (Policeman #1), Edward Graves (Policeman #2), Gordon Hawkins (The Reverend), Christopher Humbert Jr. (Policeman #3), Kenneth Kellogg (The Father), Olivia Johnson (Girlfriend #3), Nicole Joseph (Girlfriend #2), and Krysty Swann (The Mother). The production is imagined by a female creative team led by director Kaneza Schaal and conductor Daniela Candillari. Full cast listing and biographical information is available here. MOT's production of BLUE marks the company's first-ever event presented at picturesque Aretha Franklin Amphitheatre, with the stunning backdrop of the Detroit River.

Single tickets for MOT's fall opera season, which includes BLUE and BLISS, an immersive performance piece scheduled for September 25, are on sale now and may be purchased by visiting or by calling the Michigan Opera Theatre Box Office at 313/237-7464.

PLEASE BE ADVISED: The safety of guests, artists, and staff is Michigan Opera Theatre's greatest priority for performances and workplace conditions. To help slow the spread of COVID-19, BLUE is proudly presented at the Aretha Franklin Amphitheater, an open-air facility that is conducive to airflow and ventilation. To provide for social distancing (a recommendation of the CDC), tickets are sold in blocks to allow for distancing between groups. For the safety of all, facial coverings are required at performances.

BLUE is presented by Cadillac and made possible with support from the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, The Rocket Community Fund, MGM Grand Detroit, Masco Corporation, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Burton A. and Sandra D. Zipser Foundation, and OPERA America's grant program for women stage directors and conductors.

BLUE Community Engagement

At the center of Blue is an African American family with a father serving as law enforcement and a son, involved with social justice, that is killed by police. The messaging and themes of this opera reflect a reality many Americans face daily. MOT believes Blue provides the community a unique opportunity to engage in difficult conversations surrounding safe communities. With that in mind, MOT has curated a series of discussions with law enforcement, policymakers and grassroots organizations on what community policing can look like in the wake of social unrest. The series of discussion will be released on a weekly basis via MOT's social media beginning Tuesday, August 17.

August 17 - Safe Communities Conversation #1 with Policymakers: Senator Stephanie Chang and U.S. Congressperson Rashida Tlaib

August 25 - Safe Communities Conversation #2 with Law Enforcement: Detroit Police Department Interim Police Chief James White and Wayne County Executive Warren Evans

August 30 - "The Evolution of BLUE" Moderated by Dr. Naomi Andre with Tazewell Thompson (librettist), Jeanine Tesori (composer), Kaneza Schaal (director)

August 31 - Safe Communities Conversation #3 with Community Advocacy Organizations: CEOs of Neighborhood Service Organization and Southwest Solutions

September 7 - Safe Communities Conversation #4: Gen-Z and Visions for the Future: with youth from Detroit Heals Detroit and 482Youth

In addition to MOT's efforts to facilitate necessary conversations surrounding Blue, Detroit visual artist Sheefy McFly has also been commissioned to create an original piece incorporating the themes of the opera.

"Once I heard the description of BLUE, I had so many emotions evoked that I wanted to illustrate. Even though the color palette is calming, I wanted to portray rage and chaos," Tashif "Sheefy McFly" Turner said. "With the blue flame engulfing the city in the background I wanted to express the intensity of pain and truth that Black people know so much. The fist and badge colliding represents the friction of not only the community and police, but the inner battle of a police officer & his wife losing their son that they love to the very same entity that they abide by."

Sheefy McFly is Motown's Renaissance Man. The multifaceted artist is a College for Creative Studies alum and well-rounded independent entrepreneur. Sheefy has over 20 murals in the city of Detroit spreading his "Sheefy Faces" on walls all over the state of Michigan, making his signature style become prolific. From his cubist, surrealist, and pop art influences, Sheefy creates his own subconscious gesture figures that grow stronger with every painting completed.

Single tickets go on sale for both Blue and Bliss on Monday, August 16 at noon and will be available at .