International Contemporary Ensemble to Host the Afro-Diasporic Opera Forum

By Chris Ruel

In partnership with Opera Omaha and FringeArts, the International Contemporary Ensemble will host the Afro-Diasporic Opera Forum, a free, three-day series of events that center on stories of Black experiences. The Ensemble is an artist collective dedicated to transforming the way music is created and experienced.

Events kick off with an opening session on May 25, 2021, at 7:00 p.m. EDT. Daily sessions, divided into acts and scenes, will run from May 26-28, 2021.

The Forum will examine three operas that had a profound impact on the organization and collaborators; George Lewis’ “Afterword” (2015), Dr. Tyshawn Sorey’s “Perle Noire: Meditations for Joséphine” (2016), and Pauline Oliveros and IONE’s “The Nubian Word for Flowers: A Phantom Opera.”

Musicologist Dr. Naomi André will serve as lead scholar and conversation partner. Presenters and panelists include Julia Bullock, IONE, George Lewis, and Dr. Tyshawn Sorey.

A screening of Lisa E. Harris’ digital opera, “Cry of the Third Eye” (2020), will close out the Forum.

Here’s a look at the schedule of events. All times are EDT.


Prologue: Welcome and informal gathering for all presenters and attendees

Date and Time: Tuesday, May 25, 2021, at 7-8:00 p.m.


Act I: Wednesday, May 26, 2021


Scene I: Opening Address: Dr. Naomi André with speakers Dr. Matthew D. Morrison, Dr. Daniele G. Daude, Dr. Fredara Hadley

Time: 12:30-2:00p.m.


Scene II: “Perle Noire: Meditations for Joséphine”: a conversation with Dr. Tyshawn Sorey, Julia Bullock, and Dr. Naomi André

Time: 3:00-4:00 p.m.


Scene III: Speakers: Lisa E. Harris, IONE, Helga Davis, Melanie Bacaling

Time: 5:00-6:00 p.m.


Scene IV: Screening – “Afterword” (2015) by George Lewis

Time: 7:00-9:00 p.m.


Act II: Thursday, May 27, 2021


Scene I: Speakers- Dr. Naomi André, George Lewis, IONE, Sharan Strange

Time: 11:00-12:15 p.m.


Scene II: Speakers – Dr. Courtney Bryan, Dr. Matthew D. Morrison, Dr. Fredara Hadley, with moderator George Lewis

Time: 3:00-4:00 p.m.


Scene III: Screening – “The Nubian Word for Flowers: A Phantom Opera” (2017) by Pauline Oliveros & IONE

Time: 7:00-9:00 p.m..


Act III: Friday, May 28, 2021


Scene I: George Lewis – The Work of Anthony Davis

Time: 11:00-12:00 p.m.


Scene II: Dr. Derrell Acon with an introduction by Dr. Naomi André

Time: 3:00-4:00 p.m.


Scene III: Speakers – Dr. Naomi André, Dr. Derrell Acon, Melanie Bacaling, Lisa E. Harris, followed by closing remarks.

Time: 5:00-6:30 p.m.


Scene IV: Screening – “Cry of the Third Eye” (2020) by Lisa E. Harris

Time: 7:00-9:00 p.m.


Artists, Presenters, and Panelists

Dr. Naomi André – Professor, Department of Afroamerican and African Studies, Department of Women’s and Gender Studies, The Residential College, University of Michigan. Author: “Black Opera: History, Power, Engagement” (University of Illinois Press)

George Lewis, composer, and scholar, “Afterword” (2015)

Dr. Tyshawn Sorey, composer, scholar, and instrumentalist, “Perle Noire: Meditations for Joséphine” (2016)

Julia Bullock, classical singer, “Perle Noire: Meditations for Joséphine” (2016)

IONE, author, performer, director, “The Nubian Word for Flowers: A Phantom Opera” (2017), Author: “Pride of Family” (Publisher: Harlem Moon Classics-Penguin Random House)

Dr. Courtney Bryan, composer, and instrumentalist, “Awakening” (2022)

Helga Davis, vocalist & performance artist

Dr. Matthew D. Morrison, musicologist & dramaturg

Sharan Strange, librettist

Melanie Bacaling, co-curator & associate producing director, Opera Omaha’s Amplifying the Black Experience series

Dr. Fredara Hadley, ethnomusicologist, recent research focus: Shirley Graham Du Bois’ “Tom Tom”

Dr. Dr. Daniele G. Daude, scholar & dramaturg

Lisa E. Harris, vocalist, composer, interdisciplinary artist

Dr. Derrell Acon, activist, performer, & arts leader