The Boston Modern Orchestra Project (BMOP) and Odyssey Opera, two of today’s leading innovators in the classical music scene.
Present the New England premiere of Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Anthony Davis’ seminal opera X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X (1986) on June 17, 2022, at the Strand Theatre, a stone’s throw from the house where Malcolm Little lived as a teenager in Roxbury.
This sprawling biographical opera with multiple genres unveils the astonishing life of one of the most misunderstood men in history. Led by conductor Gil Rose, this three-act semi-stage production includes the famous bass-baritone Davóne Tines, Musical America’s 2021 Singer of the Year, playing the title role of Malcolm X; mezzo-soprano Ronnita Miller (Ella); soprano Whitney Morrison (Louise/Betty); Boston baritone Joshua Conyers (Reginald); tenor Victor Robertson (Elijah/Street); Framingham singer, 14, Jonathan Harris (Malcolm Little); and the full BMOP orchestra with an ensemble of jazz soloists.
X marks the first production of BMOP’s five-year performance and recording initiative As told by: History, Race and Justice on the Opera Stage, the most comprehensive and ambitious presentation of opera by black composers ever staged in the United States.
According to Giles Rose, Founder and Artistic Director of BMOP and Odyssey Opera, “It is a pleasure to present x, undoubtedly one of the great American opera houses of the 20and century.
There’s no better way to celebrate contemporary black creativity in Boston and nationally than with the resurrection of a forgotten work composed, written and performed by black artists about black activist and legend Malcolm X, a few blocks from his home.
Likewise, composer Anthony Davis, winner of the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Music for The Central Park Five, agrees that there is no better time than now – and notes the recently completed revisions X reflect his updated views on opera. “Malcolm X (El Hajj Malik el Shabazz) is an even more relevant figure today,” Davis says. “It’s been 35 years since the premiere of X.
Malcom X’s vision is as prescient today as it was in 1986. He is an inspiration to Black Lives Matter and the social justice movement. As a composer, I’m thrilled to help create X like a contemporary opera that speaks to the future as well as to the past.
Described by The New York Times as “a fascinating and uncompromising work”, X combines Davis’ distinctive score with a libretto by Thulani Davis to depict the galvanic life and career of Malcolm X (1925-1965) in a series of rapid-fire vignettes.
After the premiere of the opera in 1986, the new yorker said, “the work is captivating, and it is unlike any other opera…. X is a work that deserves to enter the American repertoire… not just a moving, well-crafted opera, but whose music adds a new individual voice to those previously heard in our opera houses.
Unfortunately, the original recording of Davis’ masterpiece is no longer in print. BMOP and Odyssey Opera will record X at the Strand Theater on the weekend of June 18-19 for a world premiere recording of the revised edition to be released on BMOP/sound.
In partnership with Castle of Our Skins, a black-led chamber music ensemble based in Boston, the X The production also includes an educational program designed to continue conversations about Malcolm X. Last spring, students at the Boston Arts Academy learned about Malcolm X’s story and legacy while creating works to commemorate his life and his impact in anticipation of the opera’s New England premiere. Student projects (video works, visual arts, dance performances) will be presented in the lobby of the Strand Theater before, during and after the concert. More details about this free public Malcolm X exhibition, as well as other programs exploring the history and legacy of Malcolm X, will be announced soon.
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In 2021, BMOP unveiled a new five-year initiative to elevate the opera of black composers. From 2022 to 2026, As told by: History, Race and Justice on the Opera Stage presents overlooked repertoire, current masterpieces and new operas by black American composers who portray vital figures of black liberation and black thought across 250 years of history. Supported in part by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, As said by includes New England and world premiere performances of five operas in partnership with Odyssey Opera, plus commercial recordings to be released on the Grammy Award-winning BMOP/sound label, and complementary education and engagement developed by Castle of Our Skins.
After Anthony Davis’ performance this summer X is the premiere in 2023 of the version for full orchestra by Nkeiru Okoye Harriet Tubman (libretto by Okoye; creation 2014). In 2024, William Grant Still is troubled island (libretto by Langston Hughes; premiered 1949), the first opera by a black composer to be performed at a major American opera house company, will receive its New England premiere by BMOP and Odyssey Opera, as well as a special 75and anniversary performance in New York with the BMOP and the New York City Opera. The masterful work of Ulysse Kay Frederick Douglass will premiere in New England in 2025. The series conclusion is the world premiere of a BMOP commission, The bridge, an opera about Martin Luther King Jr.’s years in Boston, written by Boston composer Jonathan Bailey Holland.
The Boston Modern Orchestra Project (BMOP) is the first orchestra in the United States dedicated exclusively to the commissioning, performance and recording of 20th and 21st century music. A unique institution of crucial artistic importance to today’s musical world, BMOP exists to disseminate the outstanding orchestral music of the present and recent past through performances and recordings of the highest caliber. Founded by artistic director Gil Rose in 1996, BMOP has championed composers whose careers span nine decades.
Each season, Rose brings the award-winning BMOP Orchestra, renowned soloists and influential composers to the stage of the New England Conservatory’s historic Jordan Hall in a series that offers orchestral programming of unparalleled eclecticism.
musical americaAll of 2016, BMOP received the 2021 Excellence Award from Gramophone Magazine as “an organization that championed American music of the 20and and 21st century with passion and panache. The musicians of BMOP are consistently praised for the energy, imagination and passion with which they infuse the music of today’s times. For more information, please visit BMOP.org.
Founded in 2013 by Artistic Director and Conductor Gil Rose, Odyssey Opera presents adventurous and eclectic works that affirm opera as a powerful expression of the human experience.
Its world-class artists perform the operatic repertoire from its historic beginnings through lesser-known masterpieces to new contemporary works and commissions in a variety of formats and venues. Odyssey Opera takes its audience on a journey to places they have never been before. odysseyopera.org
Pay what you want. To purchase, visit BMOP.org or call 781.324.0396.
Friday, June 17, 2022, 8:00 p.m. EST
The Strand, 543 Columbia Road, Boston, MA, MBTA: Red to Andrew/Orange to Forest Hills to #16 or #17 Bus to Dudley
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