Cincinnati Opera to Launch The Black Opera Project

By Francisco Salazar

Cincinnati Opera has announced The Black Opera Project.

The new project is a groundbreaking, three-opera commissioning initiative that engages Black creators to develop new works celebrating Black stories.

The Black Opera Project seeks to illuminate the resilient spirit and vibrant heritage of the Black American experience. Cincinnati Opera’s overall financial commitment toward The Black Opera Project is anticipated to be approximately $5 million.

In a statement, Morris Robinson, world-renowned bass and Cincinnati Opera artistic advisor said, “The launch of The Black Opera Project marks the fruition of dreams long held by Black artists like me. While I was singing the title role in ‘Porgy and Bess’ in 2019, Cincinnati Opera leaders invited my fellow cast members and me into a conversation about opera’s future. My colleagues and I expressed concern that there were no operas that truly represented the African American culture in a positive, modern, realistic, and contemporaneously relatable way. I asked, ‘When is there going to be an opera that has the same impact on the operatic stage that the movie Black Panther had on the big screen?’ We knew there was a critical need to create and develop works that represented the vastness and beauty of the African American experience. We also felt that these new works needed to be composed, written, directed, and conducted by Black people. Cincinnati Opera bought into this vision, fully dedicating themselves to bringing The Black Opera Project to life. I’m excited about what this initiative means both for people of color and for opera fans everywhere who’ll get a chance to see what Black joy looks like on the opera stage. We’re making history and changing our art form for the better.”

The first new work to be featured as part of The Black Opera Project is “Lalovavi” from two first-time opera creators: award-winning composer Kevin Day and writer and performance poet Tifara Brown. “Lalovavi” will premiere on Juneteenth 2025 as part of Cincinnati Opera’s 2025 Summer Festival and is made possible in part by lead funding from the David C. Herriman Fund of Greater Cincinnati Foundation.

The second opera in The Black Opera Project will receive its world premiere during Cincinnati Opera’s 2026 Summer Festival and will be based on the life of Congressman John Lewis, featuring music by Maria Thompson Corley, libretto by Diana Solomon Glover, and stage direction by Timothy Douglas.