*The Metropolitan Opera made Black history on multiple fronts with its season opener Monday, presenting for the first time in its 138-year history an opera by a Black composer.
The staging of “Fire Shut Up in My Bones” – by jazz trumpeter and composer Terence Blanchard, based on the memoir of New York Times columnist Charles Blow – was the Met’s first indoor staged opera performance in 18 months, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducts Blanchard’s adaptation, which The New York Times praised after its 2019 world premiere at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis as “bold and affecting” and “subtly powerful.” The first opera by a Black composer presented on the Met stage and featuring a libretto by filmmaker Kasi Lemmons, the opera tells a poignant and profound story about a young man’s journey to overcome a life of trauma and hardship.
Blow recalled being in the audience at the premiere of the opera based on his memoir of the same name and watching the scene that depicts his sexual abuse as a child by an older cousin.
“To be honest, it was more uncomfortable watching everybody watching me,” he told WABC. “Because they were so unnerved by it they worried about my reaction.”
They needn’t have been concerned, Blow said in an interview.
“When I wrote the book, I’d already dealt with all that,” he said. “I don’t have the residual trauma that a lot of people expect me to have.”
Lemmons, Blanchard’s friend and frequent collaborator, had never written an opera libretto, though she said it was on a “bucket list” of things she hoped someday to accomplish.
“I didn’t know what the process normally was,” Lemmons said. “I didn’t even know the libretto went first. I thought maybe the music came first.”
In another Black history moment, the Met production is co-directed by Camille A. Brown, who is the first Black director on the Met’s main stage. Nezet-Seguin directs a cast that stars baritone Will Liverman as the adult Charles, soprano Latonia Moore as his mother and soprano Angel Blue as Destiny, Loneliness and his girlfriend Greta. There will be eight performances, with the final one on Saturday afternoon Oct. 23 shown live in HD in movie theaters worldwide.
Watch more details about the involved talent below: