“Tragic Hero” Malcolm X Opera Comes to New York’s Met

A musical biography of civil rights icon Malcolm X infused with Afrofuturism will premiere at New York’s Metropolitan Opera on Friday (Nov. 03).

Anthony Davis composed the score for ‘X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X,’ which premiered in 1986.

According to the famed improvisational jazz pianist, his operatic depiction of X’s life attempted to include the themes and concepts to which he was so dedicated.

He revealed why he chose the 20th century figure to compose his opera:  “For one thing, to me, Malcolm is a tragic hero. And his story is, you know, when he finally realized who he was, and really understood what his position in the world and could make really a significant contribution he was struck down, he was struck down by our people”

The opera tells the story of Malcolm X from his birth in 1925 as Malcom Little to his father’s death, his membership in the Black nationalist group Nation of Islam, his adoption of the name Malcolm X, and his killing in 1965 at the age of 39.

Part of staging “X,” both Davis and Hawkins, one of the lead actors, said, is to teach.

“It’s a slice of American history that’s not told all the time. And also during this time now that you have politicians who want to suppress history and, silence history and kinda make that history invisible. I think it’s important that people see that and understand those stories,” Davis added.

O’Hara performs an Afrofuturist legend of sorts in the opera revival, which premiered in Detroit in 2021, with a giant spacecraft swirling over the famed Met Opera stage and a choir whose aesthetic blends pre-colonial traditions with high-fashion sci-fi.

The eponymous character of the performance is portrayed throughout his life but crosses time and space, accompanied by a troop of dancers whose bodies shape the soundtrack.

The cast is led by Baritone Will Liverman who plays Malcom X.

Soprano Leah Hawkins stars as both Malcolm X’s mother, Louise Little, and his wife, Betty Shabazz.

The opera stands out in the classical music world with its diversity and themes.

She believes bringing the Black experience to the stage “is something that I want to be normal… I don’t want it to be a special event.”

“There was a time that opera kept up with the times. And so we’re now able to do the same. And it makes him more relatable to our audiences. It gives them the chance to have characters and people that they can hold on to, that they have some relation to. And it brings in all kinds of people into the house that maybe necessarily wouldn’t have come before.”

Change is on the road; Anthony Davis’ trailblazing opera has become the Met’s second opera by a Black composer.

The musical production, which is expected to last 3 hours and 20 minutes, will be performed at the famed New York Opera until December 2nd.

Written by PH

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