The piece follows a Black family in Harlem whose activist son is killed by a white police officer. On top of their grief, the boy's father must also grapple with his identity as a cop himself.
The Glimmgerglass Festival hosted the world premiere in July 2019; additional productions were slated this spring and summer for Washington, D.C.'s Kennedy Center, the Lyric Opera of Chicago, and Lincoln Center's Mostly Mozart Festival, though each of these have been canceled or postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The committee for the fourth annual accolade consists of co-chairs Heidi Waleson and George Loomis, as well as Arthur Kaptainis, John Rockwell, and Alex Ross. They selected the piece in March, prior to the new wave of Black Lives Matter protests in the wake of the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and more at the hands of police.
"Blue was selected as the recipient of this year's award in mid-March," says the committee, "and we at MCANA are proud to be announcing the award now, in this difficult time, when many of its planned productions around the country had to be canceled, and because incidents like the one at the center of the opera continue to occur. We hope that this important work will see many more performances in the future."
Two runners-up were named: Terence Blanchard and Kasi Lemmons' Fire Shut Up in My Bones and David Lang's prisoner of the state.