"Fire Shut Up in My Bones" at the Metropolitan Opera

All of us have watched Charles Blow's success with admiration and respect, so you can imagine how thrilled we were to learn that his 2016 memoir Fire Shut Up in My Bones was the inspiration for the libretto of the new opera by Terence Blanchard, that had its Metropolitan Opera premiere to open the 2021-2022 season last Monday night. Most of us know of Blanchard's success via his film scores and his performances as a jazz trumpeter. The audience at the Met last was treated to several jazz numbers, the music of a gospel choir, and a "step" dance by pledgees of an HBCU fraternity.

Charles Blow
Blow's memoir is the story of his return to the town of his birth to seek revenge against an older cousin who had raped him as a child. The opera opens with him in his car and a gun in the passenger seat. The story is told via a series of flashbacks culminating in the moment when he must decide whether to murder his cousin and potentially go to prison, or learn to live with this trauma and find peace somehow. Kudos to Charles Blow for bringing the story of childhood sexual abuse in the black community to the Metropolitan Opera stage. Granted, it is a story by a man, about a man, with music composed by a man. The last opera composed by a woman that was presented at the Met was L’Amour de Loin by Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho. This was in 2016, and was the first opera staged by the Met that was composed by a woman since 1903.

Terence Blanchard
So we are still waiting for the Met to produce an opera composed by a black woman, telling a black woman's story. (Hint, hint!)


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