The Boston Modern Orchestra Project & Odyssey Opera Team Up for ‘As Told By: History, Race, and Justice on the Opera Stage’

By Francisco Salazar

The Boston Modern Orchestra Project and Odyssey Opera have announced a collaboration to perform the Work of Black Composers with a New Five-Year Opera Series.

The new series “As Told By: History, Race, and Justice on the Opera Stage” will feature neglected repertoire, current masterpieces, and new operas by Black American composers that depict vital figures of Black liberation and Black thought across 250 years of history.

The showcase is being supported in part by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and will include the New England and world premiere performances of five operas, along with commercial recordings.

Gil Rose, Founder and Artistic Director of both BMOP and Odyssey Opera said, “As Told By represents a new dimension of BMOP’s mission to celebrate new and underperformed music of the 20th and 21st centuries. We hope that elevating the voices of Black composers will build momentum for a long-overdue shift to a more inclusive and representative classical music canon.”

The project will include performances and recordings and Rose notes, “These five exceptional works span eight decades, and were selected to showcase a wide variety of dramatic and musical styles. They offer an exciting cross-section of the dynamic landscape of modern and contemporary opera.”

The series begins with a performance of Anthony Davis’s “X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X” at Boston’s Strand Theatre. The work will star Bass-baritone Davóne Tines and will be recorded for BMOP/sound in a newly revised version.

Performance Date: June 17, 2022

Nkeiru Okoye’s “Harriet Tubman” will be shown in the premiere of the full orchestra version of the composer’s first opera.

Performance Date: Fall 2023

William Grant Still’s “Troubled Island” will be shown with BMOP partnering with New York City Opera. The work will be celebrating its 75th anniversary.

Performance Date: 2024

Ulysses Kay’s “Frederick Douglass” will get its first performance since its world premiere.

Performance Date: 2025

Jonathan Bailey Holland’s “The Bridge” will end the series. The opera, which will have its world premiere is about Martin Luther King Jr.’s years in Boston and is framed by the journey to Selma and the crossing of the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

Performance Date: 2026