Anthony Davis, Jen White, George Floyd discussed on 1A
This is one a. I'm jen white and washington even in the best of times. The percentage of us adults who show up to see an opera is tiny this year for obvious reasons what was already in small number has dwindled to practically nothing. But that doesn't mean this art form can't speak to this moment. America's one hundred plus professional companies are at a crossroads thinking hard about relevance. And how they rebound after the pandemic. It's the perfect time to inject some fresh thinking into an art form that some americans love and many others consider accessible in may the composer. Anthony davis won a pulitzer prize for this work called the central park. Five wrist hobby exactly three weeks after the pulitzer prize board honoured central park. Five george floyd was killed by police in minneapolis minnesota and as with so many other industries. His death reignited a conversation. That was already stewing in the opera world about diversity and representation and that's going to be one part of our conversation today. Let's welcome to one a. Anthony davis he's the composer of the central park. Five and a number of other shows including the life and times of malcolm acsi also teaches at uc san diego. Anthony welcome. Well thank you thank you. I'm glad you're here and also with us. The mezzo soprano opera singer. Johnny bridges and. She's agreed to sing for us today. So we'll hear that a little later today. Welcome thank you so much for having me. So american opera fans may be dedicated for the past few decades. They've been a pretty small group overall and of that. Relatively small group most were white and a majority of them are over fifty five. So i'm curious how each of you got into it anthony. What drew you to opera. Well i think actually intense. I spent tenth grade in italy. I was My father had a fulbright to teach in italy in So i i lived in italy for that year and i had a wonderful teacher who Introduced me to full. Taught a philosophy class about Nietzsche and kindergarten. Existential ism and i read the birth of tragedy and actually through the philosophy. I became interested in in opera. Jenny what about you. I had a teacher in high school. I was a junior in high school. Identify mike gift. I i was in the high school choir. And she said hey. You have a natural gift. What do you think about the idea of studying privately. And so i agreed. I started studying classical voice privately. And i just absolutely fell in love with this new world And then when. I saw that there were black opera singers that existed. I thought oh my goodness what is this. I need to know more well. According to upper america the top four works performed during the two thousand eighteen. Twenty nineteen season. Were la boheme. viata carmen. In the barber of seville all written in the eighteen hundreds so how good of a job is the opera world doing elevating more diverse. contemporary works. Today well even jump in. Oh i'm sorry. Yeah i think we can do. They can do a lot better job. I think that It's been proven. I think since when i did x was in nine hundred eighty six and That was one of the most successful operas ever produced city opera. New york city opera I think that with with New music that speaks to today and talks about this subject. And and what's what's happening in our world. I think what could tremendous appeal in opera and opera. I think is a is a an art form that can speak to that to those things. Engineers someone giving voice to these works. What are your thoughts. I absolutely agree with anthony. I have to say that. I i love singing carmen and i love singing. The classic works and the traditional works that we hear however there needs to be an expansion of stories that are told and it's starting to happen But in this moment that we have where we're not actually on stages and we're not able to gather right now. I think this is the perfect time for us. And companies to really reimagine The the work that they're presenting so that it can become more accessible and more inclusion now for for everyone so to answer your question yes it can. Greatly improve is slowly but walker is predominantly white onstage but as we said also off stage and among leaders in the opera world and its audiences ginny what discussions about race are happening among you and your colleagues. Well we've these discussions about race and racism. An equity in an inequality and equality have been happening for a long time primarily amongst my black colleagues and even calling of color but mostly black colleagues. And so we've been having these conversations for a long time. They're not new however now we do feel like people are are hearing us and and even listening so it's a great opportunity for us to really be more inclusive and i have had conversations with many opera companies about how that can happen. It's quite exhausting. I must say because. I didn't actually sign up for it. I'm i'm an artist. I'm a singer. However i am also an ambassador not only for the art form but for humanity and for equality so i do try to use my voice and my platform to help make that happen and i'm happy to say that companies are making moves. It's slow but i feel like people have a new set of ears that i've never experienced before. So i'm hopeful. Well matt tweets. Opera is facing many difficulties with the future belongs. To the composer's the breast singers directors and other performers at figure a way to keep doing something despite large performance bands in place around the country. Have you found ways to continue to practice your craft during the pandemic absolutely. Yes i have. It's not always easy. Because i do miss the stage terribly but i've done many virtual projects since the pandemic started and at first i was kind of doing them on myself and i thought wait if this is going to be our stage if the internet is going to be our stage right now. They're they're has these performances needs to be of a high quality so i have collaborated with la opera chicago opera washington national opera. And i've done some very interesting projects was coming out soon with. Wkno called monuments of hope. Where i go around to different monuments in d. c. and pair them with american songs by composers that have been silenced. And for me that that's been really an incredible experience to bring light to these composers and women composers and black composers. So yes. I've i've been very very busy busier than i ever thought that i would be in a pandemic we're talking to pulitzer prize winning composer. Anthony davis and american mezzo soprano opera singer. Jimmy bridges and johnny has agreed to sing us into the break agenda. If you'll step away from your phone now for the sound quality please And begin singing. This is having air.