The Met Opera reopens with the black composer’s first historical performance


After an 18-month shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic and prolonged labor disputes with its musicians and team, the Metropolitan Opera reopens on Monday with a historic debut – the first work by a black composer.

America’s premier opera company will present Fire shut up in my bones by Terence Blanchard, the premier jazz trumpeter and Spike Lee’s master of film music for three decades.

When its staging was first announced in 2019, it was unclear exactly when Fire would come to Manhattan.

Angel Blue and Will Liverman perform a scene during a rehearsal of Terence Blanchard’s “Fire Shut Up in My Bones”. Photo: Timothy A. Clary / AFP

But months of Black Lives Matter protests that reverberated across the country and beyond in the summer of 2020 gave the project new urgency.

The Metropolitan Opera is the largest performing arts institution in the United States, but in its 138-year history it has never presented an opera by a black composer.

The reopening of the doors of the Met with the work of Blanchard was an opportunity to make a statement.

His progress is “bigger than I am,” the Grammy-winning, Oscar-nominated artist told AFP when the Met first announced he would produce. Fire.

“It says more about what’s going on in our country; what’s going on in the art world… and the statement it makes.”

Fire, which was originally premiered in St Louis, is Blanchard’s second opera house.

Trumpeter and composer Terence Blanchard.  Photo: Eva Hambach / AFPTrumpeter and composer Terence Blanchard. Photo: Eva Hambach / AFP

It is based on the burning memoirs of Charles Blow, columnist at The New York Times. The book chronicles his coming of age as a black boy in the Deep South of the United States, struggling with racism, sexuality and abuse.

Blanchard, 59, is a regular at showbiz: he has composed dozens of films during a dynamic career that has seen him work with greats like Herbie Hancock, Dr John and Stevie Wonder.


The 3,800-seat Met Theater opens at Lincoln Center after months of heated labor talks – a dispute that threatened to derail the opening performance.

But in late August, the orchestra struck a deal with management that would have included pay cuts for musicians who pledged to restore some of that pay once box office revenues hit 90 percent of levels. ‘before the pandemic.

All customers and staff as well as orchestra and choir members are required to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination during the 2021-22 season, as are participants.

The Metropolitan Opera will reopen on September 27, 2021, kicking off the season with its very first track from a black composer.  Photo: Timothy A. Clary / AFPThe Metropolitan Opera will reopen on September 27, 2021, kicking off the season with its very first track from a black composer. Photo: Timothy A. Clary / AFP

The remainder of the Metropolitan Opera season features works by Verdi, Mozart, Wagner, Stravinsky and Puccini.

The race of Fire is currently scheduled until October 23.

“I have a feeling it’s going to be something important, and not because it’s me,” Blanchard told AFP of the historic staging.

“Just because it is.”

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