Black Opera Research Network

Works

Works

The operas listed here provide a glimpse of the wide range of black operatic activities that have been pursued around the world and throughout history. This is not an exhaustive list; instead, we offer a selection of well-known recent works, alongside operas on which some research has already been published—click through to the sources listed in the ‘Literature’ section to read more about each work.

Saka Acquaye (creator). The Lost Fishermen. Ghana, 1965.
Premiere: Accra, 1965.

Read about it here: Nii-Dortey

Terence Blanchard (composer), Michael Cristofer (libretto). Champion. USA, 2013.
Premiere: Opera Theatre of St.Louis, 2013.

Terence Blanchard (composer), Kasi Lemmons (libretto). Fire Shut Up in My Bones. USA, 2019.
Premiere: Opera Theatre of St. Louis, 2019.

Asadata Dafora (creator). Kykunkor (The Witch Woman). USA, 1934.
Premiere: Little Theatre, New York City, 1934.

Read about it here: Needham.

Richard Danielpour (composer), Toni Morrison (libretto). Margaret Garner. USA, 2005.
Premiere: Detroit Opera House, 2005.

Read about it here: Fallon; Guarracino; Jennings; Kodat.

Anthony Davis (composer), Thulani Davis (libretto). X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X. USA, 1985-1986.
semi-staged premiere: Philadelhia, 1985.
Fully staged premiere: New York City Opera, 1986.

Read about it here: Bynum

Anthony Davis (composer), Richard Wesley (libretto), The Central Park Five. USA, 2019.
Premiere: Long Beach Opera Company, California, 2019.
Winner of the 2020 Pulitzer Prize in Music

Akin Euba (composer). Chaka: An Opera in Two Chants. Based on an epic poem by Léopold Sédhar Sengor. Ghana, 1970.
Premiere: University of Ife, Nigeria, 1970.

Read about it here: Agawu. 

Harry Lawrence Freeman (composer and librettist). The Martyr. USA, 1893.
Premiere: Denver, Colorado, 1893.

Read about it here: Caplan; Davidson; Steward.

Shirley Graham Du Bois (composer and librettist). Tom Tom. USA, 1932.
Premiere: Cleveland, OH, 1932.

Read about it here: Schmalenberger. 

Rhiannon Giddens (composer and librettist). Omar. USA, 2020.
Premiere: Spoleto Festival USA, postponed to 2021.

Isango Ensemble. U-Carmen eKhayelitsha [film opera based on Bizet’s Carmen]. Directed by Mark Dornford-May. South Africa: Spier Films. 2003.

Read about it here: Viljoen and Wenzel; Davies and Dovey;  André. 

Isango Ensemble. Unogumbe [film opera based on Britten’s Noye’s Fludde]. Directed by Mark Dornford-May. UK: Film and Music Entertainment. 2013.

Isango Ensemble. Breathe – Umphefumlo [film opera based on Puccini’s La Bohème]. Directed by Mark Dornford-May. South Africa: Advantage Entertainment. 2015.

Mandisi Dyantyis and Isango Ensemble. A Man of Good Hope. Based on the novel by Jonny Steinberg. South Africa, 2016.
Premiere: Cape Town, 2016.

Mzilikazi Khumalo (composer), Themba Msimang (libretto). Princess Magogo kaDinuzulu. South Africa, 2002.
Premiere: Opera Africa, Durban, 2002.

Read about it here: Mhlambi. 

Duro Ladipo (composer and librettist). Oba Kòso. Nigeria, 1962.
Premiere: Oshogbo, 1963.

Read about it here: Duro-Ladipo and Kóláwolé.

Neo Muyanga (composer). Heart of Redness. Based on the novel by Zakes Mda. South Africa, 2015.
Premiere: Cape Town, 2015.

Read about it here: Fourie. 

Bongani Ndodana-Breen (composer), Warren Wilensky (libretto). Winnie: The Opera. South Africa and Canada, 2011.
Premiere: Pretoria, 2011.

Read about it here: Mhlambi; Somma. 

Nkeiru Okoye (composer and librettist). 2014. Harriet Tubman: When I Crossed That Line to Freedom. USA.

Premiere: American Opera Project; Irondale Centre, Brooklyn, NY; 21 February 2014.

Read about it here: https://www.nkeiruokoye.com/harriet-tubman

Nkeiru Okoye (composer and librettist). In development. Tales from the Briar Patch. USA.

Premiere: In development.

William Grant Still (composer), Langston Hughes and Verna Arvey (libretto). Troubled Island. USA, 1939.
Premiere: New York City Opera, 1949.

Read about it here: Kernodle; Soll. 

William Grant Still (composer), Verna Arvey (libretto). A Bayou Legend. USA, 1941.
Premiere: Opera/South, Jackson, Mississippi, 1974.

Read about it here: Soll. 

William Grant Still (composer), Verna Arvey (libretto). Highway One, USA. USA, 1962.
Premiere: Miami, 1963.

Read about it here: Soll. 

William Grant Still (composer), Harold Bruce Forsythe (libretto). Blue Steel. USA, 1934.
Premiere: extracts performed in Los Angeles, 1935.

Read about it here: Murchison. 

Douglas Tappin (composer and librettist). I Dream. USA, 2010.
Premiere: Atlanta, 2010.

Jeanine Tesori (composer), Tazewell Thompson (libretto). Blue. USA, 2019.
Premiere: Glimmerglass Festival, 2019.