(Photo credit: NBC)
NBC Nightly News traveled to New Orleans to film a segment on OperaCréole’s Artistic Director Givonna Joseph and her work to bring restorative justice to American opera through presentations of work by 19th-century free people of color. As part of that segment, NBC focused on the joint project between OperaCréole and Opera Lafayette to take Edmond Dédé’s “Morgiane” to the stage for the first time.
For the past nine months, the two opera companies have been collaborating to finally bring “Morgiane” to life. OperaCréole is a historical opera company based in New Orleans whose mission is to give life to the compositional voices of the 19th-century community of free people of color who were at the heart of New Orleans’ flourishing opera scene. Opera Lafayette, a period instrument opera company based in Washington, DC, and New York City, focuses on music from the 17th through 19th centuries.
Dédé’s score was assumed to be lost for nearly 100 years but was recently rediscovered in the collections of Harvard’s Houghton Library and given to OperaCréole by Xavier University of Louisiana’s then archivist Lester Sullivan. Since June 2023, Opera Lafayette Artistic Director Designate Patrick Dupre Quigley and team have been working to transcribe the 500-plus page handwritten score into modern notation.
“‘Morgiane’ is the most important piece of American music that no one has ever heard,” said Quigley in a press release. “The American musical community has been deprived of this masterpiece for over 130 years; it is high time that Dédé and his music take their rightful place in the American musical canon.”
Dédé, a fourth-generation free person of color, was born in New Orleans in 1827. Dédé left the south for Paris where he wrote over 75 works, including ballets, operetta, symphonic, and popular music. His opera “Morigane” was composed toward the end of his 40-year tenure in Bordeaux, however, it was never produced.
The world premiere is set to take place in New Orleans on Nov. 20. The work will then travel to Washington, D.C., on Feb. 3, 2025, and New York City on February 5th, 2025.