On the importance of opera

Then you suddenly find yourself in a space where the words of an American writer, the dance of a Bijlmer choreographer and the emotional stories and songs of American singers give your whole world, your experience in opera and music giving a whole new turn. And you almost feel guilty for noticing or consuming art “only” up to that point and for not contributing something so essential to society, like these wonderful people.

This happened to me last weekend in the foyer of the Dutch National Opera and Ballet, where an evening about opera was organized for the “Black Month of Achievement 2022”blueWhich will premiere in Europe in November at the Dutch National Opera. Presenter Socha Duesker led us through the evening.

Kenneth Kellogg in the Introduction blue. Photo: © Kikki Krijnen


After a special “Introduction” to Kenneth Kellogg, who has appeared in all productions of “blue’ that was given so far, sang part of the father, a beautiful song of “blue’ by a mother in an Amsterdam production, Aundi Marie Moore, and a straight-from-the-heart, and thus at times somewhat disorganized, but bloody honest story by Péris J. Conrad about his horrific experiences as a discriminated black police officer in the Netherlands, the writer said. From the libretto and director’blueTazwill Thompson on the origins of operablue“.

Glimmerglass Festival director Francesca Zampello, an experienced and successful playwright and maker, called Tazwill Thompson, to think of any scriptwriter Jeanine Tesori could request for a new opera, commissioned by the festival.

Tazoil Thompson. Photo: © Kim Krijnen

He looked at the names on the list and lost his name. He volunteered, got down to business, and by the first meeting with the author had written several full scenes. This was the result of some kind of revelation from the writer. He found, as he contemplated an opera plot and script, that he no longer wanted to remain silent. He kept silent about what he believed every black American man encounters on a daily basis. Being silent as an artist about what is happening in America. He recounts his life as a black man in Harlem, New York under Mayor Rudy Giuliani.


From his own experience as a black man in Harlem, where black men in particular were subjected to “stop and look,” to negative stereotyping and in the extremes, police brutality, Thompson said calmly, calmly and yet passionately and passionately. He shared how he felt that he had fallen short as an artist until that point and that it was time for work that should tell the story of HIS and the story of all black men in the United States.

He wanted to write an opera about a family with working parents, not a stereotypical story about disadvantaged black Americans, but a story that should be typical in nature and extremities. An opera where the father is, at first, by his autobiography, a jazz musician playing the saxophone, but eventually, at the composer’s suggestion, as a policeman, a ‘man in black in blue’ raises the son of an activist, who becomes a victim of police brutality in New York. The son was shot dead by a fellow policeman. Oprah seems like a Greek tragedy of scale and at the same time is an everyday reality for countless black Americans. He wanted to write an opera that would be relevant to him and society. Even without watching the opera, I know it was a success.

rehearsal photo blue With Tazoil Thompson. Photo: © Dutch National Opera, Melle Meivogel


After him, or alternately with him, singer Kenneth Kellogg spoke. His story, which was equally dramatic and emotional, also dealt with the feeling of an artist who cannot continue in his profession without discovering a deeper connection. He was even about to quit singing when he was offered the role of father in the movie Blue. It does not mean that he has prepared well for the test. He hadn’t read the script and had only rehearsed his scenery. He was commissioned by Tazewell Thompson to read the entire text. When he returned he was very emotional, but so convinced of the importance of the opera that after several productions of Blue in which he played the father, he is still visually and audibly affected by the story, which is also his story.

Foreword by Sosha Doinker, Bass Kenneth Kellogg and Director/Writer Tazewell Thompson. Photo: © Kiki Krijnen


He described how during a rehearsal, where the coffin table was photographed with the corpse of the lead son, he burst into unstoppable tears and could not continue to practice. He just became a father to a son. He has brought another black boy into the world, with all the risks involved. He continues his story with a song from the opera, in which a father enters into a “conversation” with his son, the “conversation” that every black father must have with his son. The “conversation” is about what awaits him as a black person and what he should and should not do to live as safe as possible and not fall victim to white police brutality.

the mother

Mezzo-soprano Aundi Marie Moore, who will sing as a mother in Amsterdam, told a similar story. How, during the rehearsal her child was playing at it and she was just watching it, she was overcome by feelings and how, in her words, she screamed violently and above all crying out loud, which interrupted the rehearsal. How did you experience this opera as a mother? How her search for a role model led her to mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves, giving her the courage to continue working as a classical singer. How seeing the “Bill Cosby Show”, in which a successful black family was filmed, had such a huge impact, is the effect that this show had on young Americans of color, which we never appreciated in Holland. About the role of a young woman who tells her friends that she is married to a policeman, and about that woman’s daily worries about whether her husband will come back through the door at the end of the day, about motherhood (“He is my son) and about the importance of opera for her personally.

Andy Marie Moore. Photo: ∂Kiki Krijnen


stories about opera ‘blue’but also stories of the everyday reality of people of color in America, supplemented, improved, and portrayed by dancing before our eyes by the dancers, who performed a dance by Gregory “Shaggy” Albertson.

Choreographer Gregory “Shaggy” Albertson in conversation with Socha Duesker. Photo: © Kiki Krijnen

(r) Our eyes only It has the same theme, arising from the same personal experiences of the factory, whose story we also shared. Same stories from Bijlmer, from our own Harlem perhaps, but also hard reality turned into beautiful art. As Shaggy could no longer be silent, he had to express himself in his medium; dance.

dancers in (R) Our eyes only. Photo: © Kiki Krijnen

After a few impressive performances, I realized this evening, but definitely the next opera productionblueIt should become the starting point for my most relevant contribution to society. My medium is this site, so don’t expect any artwork from me, but maybe some slightly relevant written contributions, which can bring a little awareness. I will start with this piece and in the coming weeks I will pay more attention to opera which is now more than important and very relevant to me.blue‘ Spent.

blue It will premiere at the Dutch National Opera on November 7.

Keep watching, reading and listening

Trailer for blue

Black Achievement Month 2022

Jordi Koeman announced the appointment of Francesca Zampello to Glimmerglass.

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