By Helen Cook
New York City, US, Sep 27 (EFE).- Nearly 140 years after it was founded, the Metropolitan Opera reopened Monday with the performance of an opera by a black composer for the first time, an attempt by the renowned institution to move away from its elitist and outdated image and join efforts by the American art world to open doors to greater diversity.
The excitement of the historic moment on the reopening of the Met Opera following a-year-and-a-half of pandemic-induced closure was palpable as endless lines of beautifully dressed New Yorkers waited impatiently outside the doors of the opera house, vaccination card in hand and the mandatory masks ready.
After just a few notes had been played, the audience leapt to their feet and gave a rousing welcome to “Fire Shut Up In My Bones,” an adaptation of New York Times columnist Charles Blow’s memoir by the same name, in which he describes the hardships he faced while growing up in rural Louisiana amid violence and sexual abuse.
A clear departure from classics such as “The Barber of Seville,” “Fire Shut Up In My Bones” is full of scenes in meat processing plants, nightclubs and evangelical churches and has been composed by jazz trumpeter and composer Terence Blanchard.
New York arts patron and opera lover Andrea Siben described the performance as an extremely significant sociological moment with a very distinct audience.
On this occasion, in addition to the 3,600 fortunate ones occupying the seats of the Metropolitan Opera, another 3,700 people watched it live on several screens installed in public spaces, including one in Harlem, a mostly black neighborhood.
The opera’s composer, Blanchard, who was in Harlem on Monday, told EFE in an interview that he was filled with a range of emotions before this important occasion.
Blanchard said that while it was both an honor and an overwhelming experience to be the first black composer in the Metropolitan’s history, there had been many other composers before him who had deserved the honor.
The composer also praised the Metropolitan Opera for moving forward and making an attempt to rectify the scant attention that the opera world has paid to African-American talent.
A few days before the premiere, the main lead, African-American baritone Will Liverman, admitted to feeling the pressure of being in the spotlight at such a significant time for the opera world. EFE