Cerise Jacobs & White Snake Projects to World Premiere ‘Death by Life’

By Nicolas Quiroga

Librettist and producer Cerise Jacobs, together with her company, White Snake Projects, have created a virtual opera called “Death By Life,” in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

The work, which is set to premiere digitally on May 20, 2021, explores systemic racism and the mass imprisonment of blacks. The opera features music by five Black composers including Jacinth Greywoode, Leila Adu-Gilmore, Jonathan Bailey Holland, David Sanford, and Mary D. Watkins. There will be additional performances on May 22 and 25.

There will also be three additional virtual events in the lead-up to the world premiere. On March 30,  White Snake Projects will showcase “Art As Transformation,” an interactive forum featuring Fifth House Ensemble, FreeWrite, and Storycatchers Theatre. On April 6 there will also be virtual exhibition from two recently released inmates with a panel discussion on the prison system in the United States set for April 13.

The process of creating Death By Life was developed thanks to the director of the human rights laboratory at the University of Chicago, Alice Kim, who alerted the White Snake Projects team to the writings of the prisoners, in the middle of which are poets, philosophers, and activists. Their works were purchased from them to be used in the creation of the opera libretto.

“Death By Life” will be directed by Kimille Howard and the musical director will be Tian Hui Ng. The opera stars soprano Tiana Sorenson, mezzo-soprano Lucia Bradford and tenor Aaron Blake, among others.