The Metropolitan Opera stages the first opera by a black composer
In 138 years of history, the Metropolitan Opera has never staged an opera of a black composer – until now. After 18 months of pandemic-related cancellations, the Met opened its 2021 season in September with a performance by Terence Blanchard Fire shut up in my bones. A second opera by a black composer – that of Anthony Davis X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X – is expected to be shown at the Met in 2023.
Fire shut up in my bones, which has an all-black cast, is based on the memoir of New York Times journalist Charles M Blow. The story follows Blow’s education in isolated and poverty-stricken Louisiana in the 1970s, enduring sexual abuse to become a successful columnist and writer.
This might just be his second opera, but Blanchard is no stranger to composition, having already been nominated for two Oscars for his scores for Spike Lee films. BlackKkKlansman and Da 5 Bloods. In addition to composing, Blanchard is a Grammy-winning jazz trumpeter. There are jazz references everywhere Fire shut up in my bones, with Blanchard describes the work as “jazz opera”.
Met Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin has conducted the house orchestra and main soloists – including baritone Will Liverman and soprano Angel Blue – in the production, which is expected to run until the end of October. A jazz quartet is integrated into the orchestra. Joining the singers on stage will be 16 dancers, choreographed by Camille A Brown, who co-directs the production with James Robinson, with whom she also created Gershwin’s recent and highly successful Met staging. Porgy and Bess.
British audiences will be able to watch this historic Met performance in theaters via the HD Live from the Metropolitan Opera program from October 23.
Terence Blanchard’s fire is extinguished in my bones will be staged at the Metropolitan Opera until October 23, 2021.