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Guest Lecture: Glimmerglass Festival Opera

Saturday, February 10, 2018

3:00pm, Walgreen Drama Center, Stamps Auditorium


Breaking Glass: Hyperlinking Opera & Current Social Issues

Livestream available here:

In this panel, the U-M Gershwin Initiative hosts two creative teams from The Glimmerglass Festival opera company. Glimmerglass seeks to inspire conversations about race in opera. This means talking about issues that are bubbling beneath the surface of making art in the late 2000-teens. Pulling from contemporary writers and thinkers, such as Michael Eric Dyson and Ta-Nehisi Coates among others, we will explore whether white privilege or the traditionally white European institutional model dictate the means by which the African American, or further, the refugee cultural experience are theatrically absorbed. Additionally, we explore the idea that an artist’s life work is predicated on an ‘elite system’ where the arts & sciences had the opportunity to flourish as a result of a system of oppression. These conversations will occur in a safe space, but we want to expose the African American and refugee experiences and how the Euro-centric institution is changing to embrace a new social responsibility. Panelists will include Jeanine Tesori (composer of Blue), Tazewell Thompson (librettist and director of Blue), and Matthew Morrison (NYU), and U-M Professor Naomi André, along with SMTD student performers coached by Professor Kathy Kelly.

Paige Hernandez, Stomping Grounds director and librettist
Paige Hernandez is a multidisciplinary artist who is critically-acclaimed as a performer, director, choreographer and playwright. She is known for her effective fusion of theatre, hip-hop, dance and education. As a master teaching artist, Hernandez has taught throughout the country to all ages and disciplines, to date reaching approximately 10,000 students in over 100 residencies, workshops and performances. As a performer, choreographer and hip-hop advocate, her work has been seen at The Kennedy Center, Wolf Trap, Imagination Stage, Lincoln Center, Arena Stage, Folger Theatre and Forum Theatre, among other stages across the globe. Hernandez tours internationally with her company B-FLY ENTERTAINMENT, promoting original works such as Liner Notes, Havana Hop and Paige in Full: A B-girl’s Visual Mixtape. Awards include an Individual Artist Award from the Maryland State Arts council, the Thomas Fichandler Award for exceptional promise in theater education from the Wolf Trap Institute for Early Learning and two Helen Hayes nominations for choreography and performance. Hernandez was named a “classroom hero” by the Huffington Post for her outstanding arts integration and work with STEM initiatives.
Jeanine Tesori, Blue composer
Jeanine Tesori won the 2015 Tony Award for “Best Original Score” with Lisa Kron for Fun Home. She has also written Tony-nominated scores for Twelfth Night (Lincoln Center); Thoroughly Modern Millie (lyrics, Dick Scanlan); Caroline, or Change (lyrics, Tony Kushner); and Shrek The Musical (lyrics, David Lindsay-Abaire). The production of Caroline, or Change at the National Theatre in London received the Olivier Award for Best New Musical. Her 1997 Off-Broadway musical Violet (lyrics, Brian Crawley) opened on Broadway in 2014 and garnered four Tony nominations, including Best Musical Revival. Opera: A Blizzard On Marblehead Neck (libretto, Tony Kushner; Glimmerglass) and The Lion, The Unicorn, and Me (libretto, J. D. McClatchy, Washington National Opera). Music for plays: Mother Courage (with Meryl Streep and Kevin Kline), John Guare’s A Free Man of Color (Lincoln Center Theater), and Romeo and Juliet (Delacorte Gala). Film scores: Nights in Rodanthe, Every Day, and You’re Not You. She is founding artistic director of Encores! Off-Center at City Center, and is a lecturer in music at Yale. 
Tazewell Thompson, Blue librettist and director
Harlem native Tazewell Thompson, is an internationally-acclaimed director of opera: Europe, Asia, Africa, Canada and the U.S.; theatre: over 85 productions (many world and American premieres and over 24 productions at Arena Stage, where he served for many seasons as resident director); an award-winning playwright (Constant Star, Jam & Spice, A Christmas Carol, Mary T & Lizzy K) with commissions from Lincoln Center Theatre, Arena Stage, South Coast Rep and People's Light and Theatre Company. He recently directed Ruined for Everyman Theatre, Caucasian Chalk Circle for New York University Tisch School of the Arts, and the American premiere of Vivaldi's opera Cato in Utica for the Glimmerglass Festival and Opera Lafayette. His production of Porgy & Bess, broadcast on Live From Lincoln Center, received EMMY nominations for Best Classical Production and Best Director. He made his Washington National Opera directorial debut in November 2015, with the world premiere of Philip Glass’ Appomattox, and returned for the February 2016 production of Lost in the Stars, which he originated with Cape Town Opera/Glimmerglass Festival to widespread recognition in 2012. Most recently, he directed the 2017 Glimmerglass production of Handel’s Xerxes.

Naomi André 
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
Naomi André is associate professor in the Department of Afroamerican and African Studies, Women’s Studies, and the associate director for Faculty at the Residential College at the University of Michigan. Her research focuses on opera and issues surrounding gender, voice, and race. Her publications include topics on Italian opera, Schoenberg, women composers, and teaching opera in prisons. Her current book, Black Opera: History, Power, Engagement, is forthcoming from the University of Illinois Press in May 2018.  Her earlier books, Voicing Gender: Castrati, Travesti, and the Second Woman in Early Nineteenth-Century Italian Opera (2006) and Blackness in Opera (2012, co-edited collection) focus on opera from the nineteenth to the mid-twentieth centuries and explore constructions of gender, race and identity.  She has served on the Graduate Alumni Council for Harvard University’s Graduate School of Art and Sciences, the Executive Committee for the Criminal Justice Program at the American Friends Service Committee (Ann Arbor, MI), and as an evaluator for the Fulbright Senior Specialist Program.

Matthew Morrison – moderator
NYU Tisch School of the Arts
Matthew Morrison is an assistant professor faculty/fellow at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. He holds a PhD in Musicology from Columbia University, a MM in Musicology from The Catholic University of America and was a Presidential music scholar at Morehouse College, where he studied violin and conducting. Morrison has served as editor-in-chief of the peer-reviewed music journal Current Musicology, where he published a special issue on Race, Sound, and Performance (Spring 2012) featuring an interdisciplinary group of scholars writing about the sounds of music in society. His published work has appeared in the Journal of the American Musicological Society, the Grove Dictionary of American Music and on Oxford University Press’s online music blog. Morrison is currently the dean of Faculty and Academic Affairs for the W. E. B. Du Bois Scholars Institute at Princeton University. He also curates and contracts a variety of performances featuring some of the most dynamic musicians (of color, in particular). His current book project, American Popular Sound: From Blackface to Blacksound, considers the implications of positing sound as a major component in both individual and societal identity constructions, specifically race formation.

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Photography Credits:

U-M Photo Services

Joe Welsh

Peter Smith

David Smith

Glen Behring

Tom Bower