Melanie Knolls Project
This is a proposal to partner with the Intercultural Music Initiative, playwright and filmmaker Niyi Coker, Jr. to present a public reading of a new opera, titled “AMERICA/WE NEED to TALK.” The opera is comprised of music composed by Fred Onovwerosuoke and libretto co-written with Dr. Coker, and will be based on poems and other writings by Paul Dunbar, Maya Angelou, Langston Hughes, George Orwell and the late St. Louis Poet Laureate, Michael Castro. The synopsis of the opera was accepted by Opera America and approved for a full proposal for their 2020/2021 IDEA Opera Grant Competition in Los Angeles.
The subject matter of this opera examines the great experiment that is America – an uncertain amalgam of cultures and immigrants with diverse experiences, attracted, forced and cajoled from every corner of the globe to build a dream nation in the New World. It’s a commentary on the 2016 Election, and the political morass that followed and a rousing call to all conscientious citizens who value America’s role as a beacon to the rest of the world. It warns that apathy only perpetuates deeper frustration about race and ethnicity, about gender inequality, walls, inhibitions and oppressive policies. That unbridled frustrations eventually erupt and precipitate chaos, disrupting the comforts the privileged in our society take for granted. That society should not normalize a culture of fear, but of open dialogue about building a compassionate society “with liberty and justice for all.”
Art music has a unique capacity to stimulate the human spirit. The combined power of music, lyrics and drama can heighten an audience’s response in a more visceral way. Emotions are still raw that the 2016 Presidential Election was purportedly compromised by a foreign, adversarial nation. Thus the subject matter of this project is urgent, and the opera medium is singularly suited to convey this urgency.
The proposed reading will take place October 10, 2020 at the Sheldon Concert Hall in St. Louis, Missouri, and will feature noted soprano Caroline Modiba, counter-tenor Tai Oney, mezzo-soprano Veena Akama-Makia, a chorus of 20 voices, and small ensemble of IMI musician to be led by music director David Hodgkins who conducted the Boston premiere of the cantata version of the work.
An audition call will be announced in August 2020 in major media outlets, locally and nationally. 20 chorus members will be selected to perform with a small group of musicians hired for the reading. One pre-production meeting will be held in St. Louis, Missouri attended by composer Fred Onovwerosuoke, co-librettist Niyi Coker, Jr., and music director David Hodgkins to discuss the score and libretto, as well as production and promotional plans for the professional reading. Following the reading, partnerships will be sought to promote the work and to raise additional funding to help promote the fully staged opera.
Following the reading, partnerships will be sought to promote the work and to raise additional funding to help promote the fully staged opera.
This final movement of Fred Onovwerosuoke’s work was what inspired the proposal to expand the work from a cantata into a fully staged opera. This performance was at the world premiere concert at Sanders Theatre at Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.
Excerpt from Part Two of Fred Onovwerosuoke’s “A Triptych of American Voices: A Cantata of the People.
Start and End Dates
07/01/2020 — 11/30/2020
Saint Louis, Missouri