American Opera Project to Showcase ‘Poets of New York: Operas Inspired by Audre Lorde and Walt Whitman’

By Chris Ruel

American Opera project (AOP) and NYU/Tisch Opera Lab will present “Poets of New York: Operas Inspired by Audre Lorde and Walt Whitman,” featuring three original operas.

The operas will be presented on May 25 and 26, 2024 at the NYU Schubert Theatre, 721 Broadway, 5th Floor, NYC. Tickets are free with reservation.

Featured artists include sopranos MaKayla McDonald and Gileann Tan, mezzo soprano Patrice Eaton, countertenor Jordan Rutter-Covatto, baritones Nathaniel Sullivan and Shafiq Hicks, and bass-baritone Eliam Ramos.

Among the works featured is “The Walt Whitmans of Fort Greene Park,” composed by Zachary Catron to a libretto by Peyton Marion. Sam Helfrich stage directs this modern opera buffa exploring Whitman’s legacy, hero worship and what people will do for a buck.

“West Love ’89,” composed by Sean Havrilla to a libretto by Troy Defour, and directed by Helfrich, relates the story of Baharnab√©, a Black-German woman living in 1989 Berlin, who discovers self-identity as an ‘Afro-German’ through poetry after encountering Audre Lorde’s ADEFRA activist group. Through writing, she travels through time and memory, learning how to write her own story.

Composer Durra Leung and librettist Clare Fuyuko Bierman’s “The People vs. American Cheese” is directed by Helfrich. The opera has Audre, Walt, Durra, and Clare find themselves amid rubble as their gay cruise faces an unexpected attack from American Cheese, personifying the threat of heteronormativity, all while grappling with each other for cultural relevance and the status of icons.

Jeremy Chan will direct music.

The May 26 performance will feature a talkback with the creators.