New Work By Jeanine Tesori Will Premiere At The Glimmerglass Festival
Blue features a narrative centered on topics seemingly plucked from recent headlines. In this story of love and loss, we see The Father, a police officer, and The Mother supported by a loving community of fellow law enforcement, churchgoers and friends as they respond to the killing of their son.
"It's a narrative that, unfortunately, has no expiration date," librettist and director Thompson noted. "A narrative set in the present urban world of a unified black community, black church, and black family; and how the current social and political environment drastically touches and changes the lives of all involved."
Despite tragedy underlying the work, Thompson's libretto considers devastation in the context of the humor and rhetoric of everyday life in the family's neighborhood. Conversations and interviews Thompson had with people from all backgrounds inform the characters and their actions. In the opera, friends still take the time to watch Aaron Rodgers play and blush over their love lives in between sharing fears of raising a black child.
While Thompson's past experience as a playwright primed his writing for Blue, this is his first operatic libretto. In addition to a need for brevity in an operatic libretto, Thompson emphasizes the power of collaboration in this effort.
"A libretto needs to leave room for the music," Thompson said. "The libretto is the structure, blueprint, the scaffold of the opera. The music is the heart, soul, spirit and movement of the opera. I write plays alone. Librettos want partnering, collaboration. Jeanine and I became instantly a strong symbiotic team."
Tesori is no stranger to The Glimmerglass Festival. The Tony Award winner premiered her first opera, A Blizzard On Marblehead Neck, at the Festival in 2011. Collaboration is key to Tesori as well.
"I think of myself as a facilitator, there to illuminate the story of my collaborator," Tesori said. "When it comes to structuring the score, I'm on familiar ground. But the source is Tazewell, and when I have a question about story, I call him. As human beings we have so much in common, but with something so charged as racial inequality, a system that has been put in place over hundreds of years, I know I can't even begin to understand what it's like."
In addition to writing the libretto, Thompson directs the opera, following previous turns directing Xerxes, Lost in the Stars and Cato in Utica among other operas. Kenneth Kellogg stars as The Father, with Briana Hunter as The Mother, Aaron Crouch as The Son and Gordon Hawkins as The Reverend. John DeMain conducts. The scenery is by Donald Eastman, with costumes by Jessica Jahn and lighting by Robert Wierzel.
Blue runs on select dates through August 22 at The Glimmerglass Festival in Cooperstown, New York. Visit www.glimmerglass.org/blue for more information.