Derrell Acon, Curtis Bannister, & Kelly Griffin Headline Heartbeat Opera’s ‘Breathing Free’ Online Series

By David Salazar

Heartbeat Opera  has announced a brand new six-part series entitled “Breathing Free.”

The visual album, which will premiere on YouTube between Dec. 4-12, will showcase nine interconnected music videos highlighting works by Beethoven, Harry T. Burleigh, Florence Price, Langston Hughes, Anthony Davis, Thulani Davis, and Negro spirituals.

The series features three singers including Derrell Acon, Curtis Bannister, and Kelly Griffin as well as three dancers (Randy Castillo, Tamrin Goldberg, and Brian HallowDreamz Henry), as well as the voices of more than 100 incarcerated singers and 70 volunteers from six prison choirs.

The videos will be directed by Ethan Heard with music co-directed by Daniel Schlosberg and Jacob Ashworth.

“In its first six seasons, Heartbeat Opera has dedicated itself to reinterpreting ‘the classics’ to make them more accessible and relevant to today’s audiences,” Heard stated in a press release. “So far, we have only produced the work of white composers and librettists. ‘Breathing Free’ is about expanding our definition of ‘the canon’ and celebrating the voices of Black artists—onstage and behind the scenes. We have assembled a wonderful team of 30 collaborators, the majority of whom are Black, and we are connecting with dozens of students, primarily Black, brown, and people of color. Every day in rehearsal, the words and music of the songs in ‘Breathing Free’ remind us of our problems and our purpose.”

The presentation will be live streamed alongside opening remarks and live panel discussions focusing on different aspects of racial equity.