‘Backstage at Carnegie Hall: An Opera About Racism and the Electric Guitar’ to Get World Premiere

By Afton Wooten

The new opera “Backstage at Carnegie Hall” by librettist Tim Brady and composer Audrey Dwyer will premiere at the Centar Theatre on Sept. 23, 2022.

“Backstage at Carnegie Hall” explores racism from the perspective of jazz guitarist Charlie Christian (1916 – 42). The opera is set in December 1939, backstage at Carnegie Hall. Here the story unfolds where Christian is about to perform with the Benny Goodman Sextet – the first time a Black guitarist and a white clarinetist shared a stage. Here, Christian suffers a panic attack which moves the plot between the past and future where he sees different eras of racism in both Canada and the U.S.

The all-Canadian cast includes tenor Ruben Brutus, soprano Frédéricka Petit-Homme, baritone Christopher Parker, soprano Alicia Ault, and baritone Clayton Kennedy.

The chamber instrumental ensemble will pay homage to both classical music, big band, and the evolution of electric guitar.

This work is part of an opera cycle that discusses racism, abortion, information control, artificial intelligence, the colonization of space, and climate change. The four pieces will premiere between 2022 and 2026.