John Jay College, Opera Noire International & The Harlem Chamber Players to World Premiere ‘Emmett Till: A New American Opera’

By David Salazar

John Jay College, Opera Noire International, and The Harlem Chamber Players will join forces to present the world premiere of “Emmett Till: A New American Opera” on March 23, 2022.

The showcase, which will take place at the Gerald W. Lynch Theater at John Jay College in New York City, will reimagine the events surrounding the death of 14-year-old Emmett Till in 1955. The opera will be written by Clare Coss and composed by Mary D. Watkins.

The work will star Lucia Bradford, Robert Mack, Abigail Wright, Amanda Rose Austin, Justin Ryan, Nicholas Davis, Karmesha Peake, and Markell Reed. Tania Léon conducts.

“Emmett Till was murdered not far upriver from where I was a junior at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. No one in my largely white world would talk about what happened, a child brutally tortured and lynched – the breakdown of justice. White supremacy and Jim Crow ruled. Over the years, the pain of Emmett’s murder continued to plague my heart. In 1992, I awoke one morning with a spiritual mandate to write a play about Emmett Till,” said Coss in a press statement. “I approached writing about him through my conviction that this tragedy is shared, in the way the tragic history of this country is shared. White people as perpetrators and witnesses of white supremacy have a stake in this story. I want people to understand that it was not so long ago. Emmett Till is in our lifetime. He is in MY lifetime. I want people to understand the grave parallels between the world over 60 years ago to today’s world – from Emmett Till to Trayvon Martin to Daunte Wright. It is still happening and we must continue to shed light on these stories. I am reminded of Mamie Till-Mobley’s words ‘The world must see what was done to my son. The world must help me tell the story.’ And so we will.”

There will be an encore performance on March 24, 2022.