Announcing As Told By: History, Race, and Justice on the Opera Stage

Odyssey Opera is partnering with the Boston Modern Orchestra Project for a new series of five operas, As Told By: History, Race, and Justice on the Opera Stage, which encompasses a powerful range of 20th- and 21st-century works, starting in June 2022. The most extensive and ambitious presentation of opera by Black composers ever to take place in Boston, As Told By features five phenomenal operas showcasing the rich depth and breadth of Black creativity. These operas depict the lives of vital figures of Black liberation and thought as told by Black composers and librettists, bringing distinct and necessary perspectives on American music and history to audiences.

Odyssey Opera will participate in these five performances that will be recorded and released on the BMOP/sound record label, education programs in partnership with Castle of Our Skins, and additional events in collaboration with organizations throughout Boston. As Told By is a city-wide arts experience and a force for change in the American operatic landscape.

Anthony Davis: X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X

June 17, 2022 at The Strand Theatre in Dorchester
New England Premiere

The New England premiere of Pulitzer Prize-winner Anthony Davis’s final version of his seminal 1986 opera, with celebrated bass-baritone Davóne Tines in the titular role. Operatic writing is combined with swing, scat, modal jazz, and rap to depict the galvanic life and career of the controversial African-American activist Malcolm X (1925-1965) in a series of fast-moving vignettes. The New Yorker declared, “The work is gripping, and it is unlike any other opera…. X is a work that deserves to enter the American repertory….Not just a stirring and well-fashioned opera but one whose music adds a new, individual voice to those previously heard in our opera houses.” For more information on Odyssey Opera and BMOP’s upcoming performance of X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X, visit here.

Nkeiru Okoye: Harriet Tubman: When I Crossed That Line to Freedom

World Premiere of the orchestra version—2023 (final performance dates to be announced)

BMOP will premiere the full orchestra version of the Guggenheim Fellow’s first opera, hailed in its premiere performance as “an ensemble of achingly beautiful arias, duets, trios and choruses that recount the major episodes in Tubman’s career…”—The Baltimore Sun. Okoye’s opera recounts Harriet Tubman’s journey from enslaved girl to Underground Railroad conductor. Says Okoye about the work: “I wanted to write an opera about a woman who did great things and survived.”

William Grant Still: Troubled Island

75th-anniversary New York performance and New England premiere—2024 (final performance dates to be announced)

A depiction of Haitian revolutionary Jean-Jacques Dessalines, Still’s grandest opera—the first by a Black composer to be performed by a major American opera company—is long overdue for a revival. BMOP will resurrect this work in partnership with New York City Opera, the company that premiered the work in 1949, with performances in New York and Boston.

Ulysses Kay: Frederick Douglass

New England premiere—2025 (final performance dates to be announced)

Although Kay considered this opera his magnum opus, it has not been performed since 1991. It depicts the abolitionist’s final years and his second marriage through Kay’s style of “enlightened modernism” which brings his lyrical instinct together with a contemporary angularity.

Jonathan Bailey Holland: The Bridge

World premiere of a BMOP-commissioned opera—2026 (performance dates to be announced)

For the culmination of As Told By, BMOP has commissioned an opera from Jonathan Bailey Holland, one of Boston’s leading composers. This new work will chronicle Martin Luther King Jr.’s years in Boston, narratively framed by the journey to Selma and the crossing of the Edmund Pettus Bridge.