On July 28, 2018, Seattle Opera collaborated with Glimmerglass Festival for the community forum Breaking Glass: Hyperlinking Opera & Issues. The forum discussed the role of art in stimulating public discussion about equity, diversity and inclusion in opera; how art is produced in an increasingly diversified America; who has the right to tell whose story; and what roles social justice plays within the artistic mission of an opera company. Using music from new operas written for Glimmerglass, librettists Tazewell Thompson and Paige Hernandez talked about the social content in their new operas Blue and Stomping Grounds. Naomi André, author of the newly released book Black Opera: History, Power, Engagement, explored the changing face of opera from the creation of new work to the casting of roles. With his long-time, Grammy-winning association with Porgy and Bess, Conductor John DeMain also joined the forum. Matthew Morrison from the Clive Davis Institute of New York University, Tisch School of the Arts moderated. Other sites on the tour include Atlanta, New Orleans, Ann Arbor, Chicago, Cooperstown, Washington DC, and New York City.
Breaking Glass: Hyperlinking Opera & Issues Live Stream
Breaking Glass, a series of national forums and a related podcast with Blue composer and librettist, Jeanine Tesori and Tazewell Thompson, is made possible by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and an OPERA America Innovation Grant, supported by the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation.
NAOMI ANDRÉ, University of Michigan
Naomi André is Associate Professor in Women’s Studies, the Department of Afroamerican and African Studies, and the Associate Director for Faculty at the Residential College at the University of Michigan. She received her BA in music from Barnard College and MA and PhD in musicology from Harvard University. 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 books, Voicing Gender: Castrati, Travesti, and the Second Woman in Early Nineteenth-Century Italian Opera (2006) and Blackness in Opera (2012, edited collection) focus on opera from the nineteenth to the mid-twentieth centuries and explore constructions of gender, race and identity. Currently she is completing a monograph on staging race and history in opera today in the United States and South Africa. 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 has served as an evaluator for the Fulbright Senior Specialist Program.
JOHN DEMAIN, Madison Symphony Orchestra, Madison Opera
Music Director of the Madison Symphony Orchestra for more than twenty years, Grammy and Tony Award-winning conductor John DeMain is noted for his dynamic performances on concert and opera stages throughout the world. American composer Jake Heggie assessed the conductor’s broad appeal, saying, “There’s no one like John DeMain. In my opinion, he’s one of the top conductors in the world.” DeMain also serves as Artistic Director for Madison Opera and was formerly Artistic Director for Opera Pacific, where he led an unprecedented seven-company co-production of Jake Heggie's Dead Man Walking in 2002. He has been a regular guest conductor with Washington National Opera at the Kennedy Center, New York City Opera, Michigan Opera Theatre, Los Angeles Opera, Seattle Opera, San Francisco Opera, Vancouver Opera, Virginia Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Glimmerglass Festival, Portland Opera, and Mexico’s National Opera. In recent seasons, he has returned to the Kennedy Center for productions of Porgy and Bess and Show Boat with Washington National Opera. Additional engagements included Florencia en el Amazonas for Madison Opera and a gala concert for the Washington National Opera. Upcoming, DeMain will conduct a revival of Porgy and Bess for Seattle Opera plus concerts with Madison Symphony.
PAIGE HERNANDEZ, Stomping Grounds director, choreographer, 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.
MATTHEW MORRISON, 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 Ph.D. in Musicology from Columbia University, a masters 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 Affiars 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.
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 and 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, Tazewell directed the 2017 Glimmerglass production of Handel’s Xerxes.