Lyric Opera of Chicago will present the world premiere of Amistad, by composer Anthony Davis, on Nov. 29.
George C. Wolfe, producer of The Joseph Papp Public Theatre/New York Shakespeare Festival, will direct the opera; the cast includes Mark S. Doss and Thomas Young.
The opera, based on an 1839 slave uprising aboard a Cuban-chartered ship, will precede Steven Spielberg's film version of the same story (also titled Amistad), which is set to open Dec. 10 in New York and Los Angeles, and Dec. 25 nationally (although the general release of the film could be held up because of a $10 million copyright claim filed last month by Chase-Riboud, author of a book about the Amistad incident, who says material from her book was used without her permission in the film).
In 1986, New York City Opera presented the world premiere of Davis's X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X. Since that time, there have been a number of American operas about controversial historical incidents, such as Nixon in China, The Death of Klinghoffer and Harvey Milk..
Davis also wrote Tania, an opera based on the kidnapping of Patty Hearst, and the music for Tony Kushner's Tony-winning Angels in America, which was directed on Broadway by Wolfe. Principal cast members for the Lyric Opera of Chicago production include Thomas Young (The Trickster), Florence Quivars (Godddess of the Waters), Mark S. Doss (Cinque), Mark Baker (The Navigator), Eugene Perry (Antonio), John Quincy Adams (Stephen West), Kimberley Jones (Margru), Wilbur Pauley (Don Pedro/Calderon) and John Daniecki (Tappan). Wolfe's collaborators include set designer Riccardo Hernandez, costume designer Toni-Leslie James, lighting designer Paul Gallo and choreographer Hope Clark. The chorus master is Donald Palumbo.
Dennis Russell Davies will conduct the performances on Nov. 29; Dec. 2, 5, 8, 11, 17 and 20; and Jan 9. Philip Morehead will conduct the final performances on Jan. 11 and 15. For more information, call Lyric Opera of Chicago, (312) 332-2244.
-- By Rebecca Paller