MALCOLM X OPERA BUILDS MOMENTUM IN OMAHA

Omaha, Nebraska, Sept. 30, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- X, The Life and Times of Malcolm X

Tickets now on sale

Omaha, Neb. –

The Omaha born, iconic leader, Malcolm X, is getting a lot of attention right now.

On September 12, he was selected to be the newest inductee into the Nebraska Hall of Fame. He will be the first African American to be selected for this honor in the state.

Serendipitously, this November, Opera Omaha will produce the opera X, the Life and Times of Malcolm X, by Anthony Davis and Thulani Davis, which has been co-produced with the county's leading opera companies and will be performed in Omaha before going to the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Though selected by Opera Omaha to be included in the season nearly two years ago, the upcoming production promises to be a fit cultural event for the celebration of Malcolm's recent Hall of Fame selection.

For JoAnna LeFlore-Ejike, the Executive Director of the Malcolm X Memorial Foundation, and Leo Louis II, its board president, the synergy of this moment has been 25 years in the making.

"It's a whole community win. That doesn't happen all the time, to have a community win" said LeFlore-Ejike. "Everyone can celebrate this."

The Malcolm X Memorial Foundation, which is located on Malcolm's birth site in North Omaha, serves to bring residents together to remember the legacy of Malcolm X through tours, educational programs, town hall forums and special events. Opera Omaha is partnering with the foundation to offer a multitude of events, talkback sessions, and concerts surrounding the production, hoping to encourage the community to engage with and explore the history and community legacy of the piece.

Opera Omaha will host three sessions of Opera in Conversation happening prior to, and following, the opera. These talks serve to create an open conversation around the piece and the local importance of Malcolm's message and work. In addition, Geoff Pope, the Super Bowl winner, and Malcolm X expert, will be speaking to Omaha youth and the public the weekend of performances. Following the performances, baritone Joshua Conyers, who sings Reginald in the opera, will visit various schools and locations in the Omaha area, giving workshops and masterclasses, and will also present a recital.

The opera, which originally premiered in 1986, is coming into its first major revival and is quickly garnering national attention. In just two years, the production will be presented by its five co-producers: Detroit Opera, Opera Omaha, the Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, and Seattle Opera. In addition, the Boston Modern Orchestra Projects just released a recording of the revived score.

"One of the major differences [between 1986 and] now is that Malcolm is becoming far more accepted than he was. This has a lot to do with the recent times, the George Floyd uprising, the consciousness that spread after that, and all the recognition of Malcolm's work that's finally being uncovered because people are thinking comprehensively. They're able to look deeper into Malcolm, whereas before the propaganda had a real hold on the population. Now that propaganda is being chipped away at by truth," said board president Louis.

X, The Life and Times of Malcolm X details the life, transformation, and ultimate assassination of Malcolm X in a series of fast-moving vignettes, spanning his boyhood in Lansing, Michigan; his early brushes with the law; his conversion to the teachings of Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam; his own ministry and his breach with Elijah; his pilgrimage to Mecca, and his assassination.

"To see the collaboration between the band, ensemble, jazz, dance, of all these art forms in one place, in one display, I know it would have made Malcolm proud," said Louis. "Malcolm, in his idea of the organization Afro-American Unity, wanted to exemplify or magnify the arts for Afro-Americans. The opera does that, from the writers all the way down to the performers."

"It has been thirty-six years since the premiere of X, and I am eager to work with the extraordinary director Robert O'Hara on this new production that will feature a new generation of artists," said Pulitzer Prize winning composer, Anthony Davis. "Malcolm X (El Hajj Malik el Shabazz) is an even more relevant figure today. His vision is as prescient today as it was in 1986. He is an inspiration for Black Lives Matter and the movement for social justice. As a composer, I am thrilled to help create X as an opera for today that speaks to the future as well as the past."

Upon seeing X in Detroit, LeFlore-Ejike commented, "I was expecting a dramatized presentation. But the writers share it from Malcom's lens. The story of him as a father, as a man, often gets put on the backburner, and his activism and world travels are put at the forefront. But he was still a human being. Thankfully, it was a thorough guide into his life."

Louis agreed, "There's so much more to Malcom outside of his world travels, his fatherhood, his relationships. Most art doesn't want to highlight those things because that's not the juicy tidbit people want to explore. And those are the things that black men in media are often not represented as; fathers and husbands and things like that. Malcolm was very much those things as well as an orator, an organizer, a recruiter, and a leader. Those things should be explored."  

Described by The New York Times as "a riveting and uncompromising work," X pairs Anthony Davis's distinctly American score with a libretto by Thulani Davis and story by Christopher Davis, casting an unflinching look at one of the most influential men in American history in all his complexity.

The new production is directed by Robert O'Hara. Widely known for his Tony Award nomination for Direction of Jeremy O. Harris's Slave Play, O'Hara is joined by a creative team featuring Tony Award-winning set designer Clint Ramos, Tony-nominated costume designer Dede Ayite, lighting designer Alex Jainchill, projection designer Yee Eun Nam, and choreographer Rickey Tripp. Joining the production is conductor Gil Rose, who recently led the new recording of X with Boston Modern Orchestra Project.  

Building out the cast are many of the members of the Detroit production and album recording, including soprano Whitney Morrison as Betty, mezzo Ronnita Miller as Ella, baritone Joshua Conyers as Reginald, tenor Victor Robertson as Elijah/Street, and Charles Dennis as Young Malcolm. Baritone Adam Richardson will debut in the challenging title role.

X, The Life and Times of Malcolm X

Friday, November 4, 2022 | 7:30 pm
Sunday, November 6, 2022 | 2:00 pm

New Production co-produced with Detroit Opera, Opera Omaha, The Metropolitan Opera, Seattle Opera, and Lyric Opera of Chicago

 

CREDITS: 

Music by Anthony Davis

Libretto by Thulani Davis

Story by Christopher Davis

CREATIVE:         
CONDUCTOR | Gil Rose

DIRECTOR | Robert O'Hara

CHOREOGRAPHER | Ricky Tripp

SCENIC DESIGNER | Clint Ramos

COSTUME DESIGNER | Dede Ayite

LIGHTING DESIGNER | Alex Jainchill

PROJECTION DESIGNER | Yee Eun Nam

CAST:                 
MALCOLM X | Adam Richardson*

BETTY/LOUISE | Whitney Morrison*

ELLA | Ronnita Miller*

REGINALD | Joshua Conyers*

ELIJAH/STREET | Victor Robertson*

YOUNG MALCOLM | Charles Dennis*       
*Opera Omaha Debut


TICKETS AND INFORMATION

Single tickets for Opera Omaha's 2022/23 Season are priced from $19 to $99.

Visit www.ticketomaha.com for further details or call Ticket Omaha's Box Office at (402) 345-0606. 

The production is sponsored with season support from Omaha Steaks, The Fred and Eve Simon Charitable Foundation, Holland Foundation, The Sherwood Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, Nebraska Arts Council, Nebraska Cultural Endowment and Douglas County Visitor Improvement Fund.

ENGAGEMENT PROGRAMMING SURROUNDING X, THE LIFE AND TIMES OF MALCOLM X

The Malcolm X Memorial Foundation

Opera Omaha is partnering with the Malcolm X Memorial Foundation for resources and community programming surrounding X, the Life and Times of Malcolm X. You can learn more about the foundation and schedule a tour on their website: malcolmxfoundation.org 

 

X, The Life and Times of Malcolm X Opera in Conversation

Opera in Conversation is a series of three sessions surrounding Opera Omaha mainstage productions that feature creatives, scholars, and other public figures with a hope to foster cross-disciplinary exploration of art, big questions, and community connections.

Learn more at www.operaomaha.org/events  

 

Creative Inspiration, Process, and Insights

Tuesday, October 18 | 6-7pm

Benson Theatre

The first X Opera in Conversation will feature artists of the creative team. These artists will dive into this our production of X, sharing their inspirations, creative process, and some behind the scenes insights from the upcoming performances.

Speakers to be announced.

The History and Context of Malcolm X in Omaha

Tuesday, October 25 | 6-7pm

Benson Theatre

Our second conversation will feature Omaha historians and community leaders convened by the Malcolm X Memorial Foundation. They will discuss Malcolm X's connection to Omaha and context of that time in Omaha Omaha's history, as well as the legacy of Malcolm X and the work of the Malcolm X Memorial Foundation.

Speakers include:

Terri Sanders | Publisher, The Omaha Star

Leo Louis II | Board President, Malcolm X Memorial Foundation

Melvin Muhammad | former Board President, Malcolm X Memorial Foundation

JoAnna LeFlore-Ejike, Moderator |Executive Director, Malcolm X Memorial Foundation

 

After the Curtain Call

Tuesday, November 8 | 6-7pm

Benson Theatre

The final Opera in Conversation will open an artist response conversation with Omaha artists and creatives reflecting on their experience seeing the production and connections to their own artistic practice, while encouraging the audience to share their reflections from the opera.

Speakers include:

Beaufield Berry | Playwright

Celeste Butler | Quiltologist

Dana Murray | Jazz musician and Executive Director, North Omaha Music and Arts Academy

Diana Martinez, PhD, Moderator | Artistic Director, Film Streams

 

Prelude Talks

Prior to each performance at the Orpheum Theatre.

Friday, November 4, 6:40pm & Sunday, November 6, 1:10pm

Live prelude talks in the Orpheum Theater lobby offer necessary context, feed curiosity, and provide special behind the scenes insights to help prepare the audience to enter the world of the opera and get excited for what they're about to experience.

 

Geoff Pope with Malcolm X Memorial Foundation

Saturday, November 5, 2022

Super Bowl champion, entrepreneur and Malcolm X aficionado, Geoff Pope, will present two community lectures to open conversations around the message and legacy of Malcolm X. A daytime event, intended for youth and students, will focus on "Malcolm X and the Power of Media."

In the evening, the public is invited to discover "Why Malcolm X is Still Relevant."

Times and Locations to be announced.

 

Free Student Dress Rehearsal

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

Student Dress rehearsals are an opportunity for students to experience an opera performance and see artisans at work before the show opens to the public. We are privileged to be able to offer our students and chaperones this amazing opportunity for FREE. Teachers will be provided a study guide in advance of the opera. The study guide offers information and resources about the opera, including Omaha history offering context for the story and the life of Malcolm X. Study guides and resources help align the Dress Rehearsal Experience with Nebraska's Fine Arts Standards in Music and Theatre.

 

Artist Residency

An artist residency will occur following X, The Life and Times of Malcolm X performances and will engage students and community partners to extend and deepen their experience of the opera.

Artists Visits

Consisting of engagement at various schools and community partner locations, Baritone Joshua Conyers, who plays Reginald in the opera, will deliver workshops, performances, and Q&A sessions the week following performances. 

Public Masterclass with Joshua Conyers

Wednesday, November 9 | 7-8pm

North Omaha Music and Arts Academy

Following the production, baritone Joshua Conyers will lead a public masterclass for students and the public at NOMA. Join an evening of exploration into the life of an opera professional along with musical selections performed by Mr. Conyers.

 

Gallery 1516 Recital

Baritone Joshua Conyers will perform a recital at Gallery 1516. The program will be comprised of selections from his repertoire and under the music direction of Head of Music Sean Kelly. This is part of Gallery 1516's Bagels and Sometimes Bach Sunday morning concert series, which is free and open to the public. 

ABOUT OPERA OMAHA

Opera Omaha is a growth-minded, high energy, and innovative company with a demanding mission: producing opera performances in multiple formats and styles and co-creating artist-led programs for a variety of community service organizations. We believe the power of opera is transformational, and as a result supports the creation of an inventive, creative, empathetic, and inclusive community that inspires joy, self-discovery, kinder discourse, and opportunity for all. Visit www.operaomaha.org for more information. 

Attachments


Kyle Thomas
Opera Omaha
4023467372
kthomas@operaomaha.org
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