Tuesday, February 14, 2006

American Opera And The American Experience

"Sure, the critical triumph of Margaret Garner, the highly anticipated, star-studded opera that enjoyed its Opera Company of Philadelphia premiere Friday night at the Academy of Music, soared in Toni Morrison's beautifully spare libretto, composer Richard Danielpour's lingering melodies, and all along the dark, desperate journey that mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves, singing the title role, endured.

But the civic celebration was just as triumphant. Margaret Garner, touted as arguably the biggest cultural event ever to hit Philadelphia, succeeded in bringing together as diverse a gathering of opera-goers to ever set foot in an opera house - many of them African Americans who might have otherwise spent their Friday night listening to jazz down the street at Zanzibar Blue.

"This is the most diverse group I've ever seen," said Villanova dentist Eric Hodges, who is African American and is a longtime subscriber who attended with his wife, Kellyn. He marveled during intermission as dashikis hobnobbed with full-length minks and dreadlocks exchanged niceties with blond bobs....

Opera-goers listened as Opera Company chief Robert B. Driver compared the true life story of Garner, a runaway slave from Kentucky who slit the throat of her daughter rather than take her back into bondage, to the courage shown by Rosa Parks, Coretta Scott King, and hometown hero Marian Anderson, the famous contralto [low soprano voice].

Morrison, resplendent in a floor-length black velvet coat and signature gray braided dreadlocks, was clearly the belle of Friday night's ball. Laughing and receiving well-wishers while sipping champagne from a bottomless flute, the Nobel laureate declined all autographs and most interviews, content to bask in the diversity of the crowd.

"It's been like this wherever we've gone," Morrison said, referring to the black faces that Margaret Garner has drawn at earlier premieres in Detroit and Cincinnati. "Black people never had a reason to go the opera before. Now they do."...

Driver predicted that Margaret Garner would take its rightful place among great classics [of opera] because of its uniquely American story, one that is told without shame, romanticism or revision.

"Slavery," he said, "is the tragic flaw of America. It's taken a long time to work through it, and we're still working through it." ...

Annette John-Hall "Civic pride glows as 'Margaret Garner' opens" February 12, 2006 via www.philly.com

Virtual autopsy of an Egyptian mummy web-site. A Photo Report of Pravda/Russia [on-line since January 27, 1999]. © SPIEGEL ONLINE

Image credit: © SPIEGEL ONLINE via Pravda/Russia On-Line


Also, please see the Web-site of San Francisco's beautiful new Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD), which is located just around the corner from the over-hyped San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA).



Current Events and Inaugral Exhibits at the Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD) include:

Linkages and Themes in the African Diaspora

Dispersed: African Legacy/New World Reality

Made in Africa (all three exhibitions until March 12).

Special Lecture: Harry J. Elam, Jr., Chair of the Stanford University Drama Department and author of "The Past as Present in the Drama of August Wilson" (February 22).

The Gem Blues Series and Tribute is centered around "Gem of the Ocean", the late August Wilson's Tony-nominated play. Presented by San Francisco's American Conservatory Theater (ACT), MoAD, and Biscuits & Blues (until March 12).


Blogger critico said...

The libretto was terrible - something a child would write. Good guy vs. bad guy. No sense of language: mixed metaphores and pretentious images.
Sounded like the "empowering" vocabulary of Oprah cum Dr. Phil. "A quality love.... weapon of choice". What's that supposed to mean. And worse during the trial - "You are you and I am me" Is that supposed to be profound?
Morrison just makes big noises

And the overall plot? How about the details? How can Margaret hold a knife to kill her children after she's just picked up burning coals?
Come on !
Where did Cilla get the Bible?
How long does Margaret hang like a roast chicken before they take her down?
And why would a plantation master pick up a red scarf that a slave has dropped?

8:06 PM  

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