The Opera Theater of Saint Louis has announced the stories of three groundbreaking 20-minute operas commissioned for its New Works 2023 collective.
The company said five composers and librettists skillfully weaved together musical influences spanning rock, funk, jazz, blues, and more. to create a very unique and completely American soundscape.
The initiative, which was first announced in February 2022, is the first from an American opera company that invites open submissions from across the country and allows its community to independently select projects for further development. .
In a report, Rajendra Ramoon Maharaj, director and community consultant for the New Works Collective said, “What’s really cool about this program is that it’s never been done before. Usually in this industry, an institution tells artists what they can do. But by empowering the community, it’s the first time that the community really has a voice and can choose artists who otherwise would have been ignored. It’s a North Star moment for American opera, and I hope many, many will follow in the years to come. »
The first work in the series is “Cook Shack” by Del’Shawn Taylor and Samiya Bashir. The work tells the story of Dayo who is struggling to fit in at school. Like so many other young girls, she hides her true potential to go unnoticed.
The second work is “Slanted: An American Rock Opera” by Simon Tam and Joe X. Jiang. The work is set in 2017 when an Asian American dance rock band called The Slants went to the Supreme Court to fight for the right to use their name. Now, real-life protagonists Tam and Jiang put their legal experience to music — including a powerful lesson on free speech and bridging political divides from the late and prophetic Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Finally, the final work is “Madison Lodge by Tre’von Griffith.” The work tells the story of X migrates from the South to the mecca of Harlem, desperate to escape their small-town spirit. X’s life is forever changed when they are introduced to drag balls and find a community where they can discover their voice, celebrate their humanity, and be their authentic selves.