COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. (June 22, 2018) — The Glimmerglass Festival will present the world premiere of Blue, a new opera by Jeanine Tesori and Tazewell Thompson that follows a black couple coming to terms with the sudden death of their teenage son. The production will open in July 2019 as part of the company’s 2019 Festival.
Blue’s commission was inspired by contemporary events and influenced by several literary works, such as Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me, James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time and Claude Brown’s Manchild in the Promised Land. With a cast of 10, the opera focuses on a black family in Harlem: the father, a police officer; the mother, loving and fearful for her child; and their son, a politically active teenager. The son’s death brings to reality the mother’s worst fear and ignites an anger and devastation in the father.
“I’ve always felt that arts organizations have a responsibility to explore contemporary issues,” Artistic & General Director Francesca Zambello said. “I approached Jeanine and Tazewell almost two years ago about writing an opera tackling the subject of race in America. The result will be a tender, beautiful production offering audience members the opportunity to reflect, question, and continue the conversation. Blue brings the discussion on race to the forefront of modern opera.”
Jeanine Tesori is a versatile composer, with work ranging from opera (A Blizzard On Marblehead Neck and The Lion, The Unicorn and Me) to commercial blockbusters (Shrek the Musical). Tesori’s groundbreaking musical Fun Home won five Tony Awards, including Best Musical. Her musical Caroline, Or Change, written with Tony Kushner, draws from spirituals, blues, Motown, classical music, Jewish klezmer and folk music, and won the 2004 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Music.
“Jeanine has an amazing ability to blend musical genres to define characters’ personalities, underscore difficult subject matter, and express emotional shifts as events unfold,” Zambello said. “Her impressive talent in setting text comes from her work in both opera and musical theater.”
This will be Tesori’s second commission for The Glimmerglass Festival. Her opera, A Blizzard On Marblehead Neck, with libretto by Tony Kushner, premiered at the Festival in 2011.
Tazewell Thompson, librettist and director of Blue, is an Emmy-nominated director, playwright and author. His multiple award-winning play Constant Star has had more than a dozen national productions, and his play Mary T. & Lizzy K., commissioned by Arena Stage, was the recipient of the Edgerton Foundation New American Play Award and saw productions in Washington DC and Minnesota. He is the author of Jubilee: Fisk Jubilee Singers; Jam & Spice: The Music of Kurt Weill and an adaptation of A Christmas Carol.
He has had playwriting commissions from Lincoln Center Theatre, South Coast Repertory and People’s Light & Theater Company. In addition to his directing work with companies around the world, Thompson has directed many operas at The Glimmerglass Festival, including recent productions of Kurt Weill and Maxwell Anderson’s Lost in the Stars, Vivaldi’s Cato in Utica and Handel’s Xerxes.
The commissioning of Jeanine Tesori for Blue received funding from OPERA America’s Opera Grants for Female Composers program, supported by the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation, and from New Music USA. The development of Blue received major support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The production of Blue has received funding from OPERA America’s Opera Fund.
Blue is the Festival’s 13th world premiere and will open in July 2019. The production will run in repertory with three other mainstage productions through August 2019 at The Glimmerglass Festival in Cooperstown, New York.
Breaking Glass, a series of national forums and a related podcast with Blue composer and librettist, Jeanine Tesori and Tazewell Thompson, is made possible by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation (forums) and an OPERA America Innovation Grant, supported by the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation (podcast).
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