Washington National Opera to Explore Monuments in ‘Written in Stone’

By Logan Martell

On March 5, 2022, the Kennedy Center will present Washington National Opera’s world premiere of “Written in Stone.”

This event, which comes during the center’s 50th anniversary season, is comprised of a prologue and three one-act operas which explore the meaning of monuments through three different perspectives. The work is commissioned by WNO from the artistic pairings of Alicia Hall Moran and Jason Moran, Kamala Sankaram and A.M. Homes, Marc Bamuthi Joseph and Carlos Simon, and Huang Ruo and David Henry Hwang.

The opening presentation will feature acclaimed mezzo-soprano J’nai Bridges and Grammy-nominated baritone Rod Gilfry, with the production running until March 25.

The prologue, “Chantal,” is conceived as a conversation between a surveyor and a monument as Alicia and Jason Moran explore the significance of commemoration.

“The Rift,” by Huang Ruo, delves into controversies regarding the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. “Rise,” by Sankaram and Homes, pays tribute to the Portrait Monument of 1921, which depicts leading suffragists Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Susan B. Anthony.

The last opera, “It All Falls Down,” by Carlos Simon, follows a Black father and son as they find themselves on opposing sides of a same-sex marriage rally.

“A monument is a testament to what we value, and, as a relatively young country, our values are a work in progress,” WNO Artistic Director Francesca Zambello said in an official press statement. “We often think about a monument as something static, but every person who approaches a monument brings their own history to the encounter. The Kennedy Center is a monument in which we tell stories all the time in every venue, so it is truly a living monument, ever evolving and changing. For ‘Written in Stone, we brought together a diverse group of creators and asked them to think about how some of Washington, D.C.’s monuments, erected in the past, speak to them today. What stories can they tell about our past, our present, our future-in-progress?”