Cincinnati Opera Commissions Work About Underground Railroad

Classic Arts News   Cincinnati Opera Commissions Work About Underground Railroad
Cincinnati Opera has commissioned a new opera about John P. Parker, a conductor on the Underground Railroad, the Cincinnati Enquirer reports.

The short opera will feature music by Adolphus Hailstork, whose Paul Laurence Dunbar: Common Ground was commissioned by Dayton Opera in 1995, and a libretto by playwright David Gonzalez, creator of Finding North, a one-man play drawn from Parker's autobiography.

The new opera, entitled Freedom Is Calling, will premiere in October 2007.

Cincinnati Opera commissioned the new work on the heels of the success of last season's Margaret Garner, a opera based on the life of a runaway slave who kills her daughter rather than see her returned to slavery. The opera, with a libretto by novelist Toni Morrison and music by Richard Danielpour, was a co-commission with the Opera Company of Philadelphia and Michigan Opera Theater, and was a great success for the Cincinnati company.

All three Cincinnati performances of Margaret Garner were, according to a spokesperson, sold out.

"The community response to Margaret Garner was positively overwhelming," general director and CEO Patricia Beggs said, "and sent a clear signal that there is a need, in fact a demand, for works that honor our history, inspire meaningful dialogue, and bring our community together."

Parker was born into slavery, bought his freedom in 1845, and worked on the Underground Railroad—a clandestine network that African Americans used to escape to free states—in Ripley, a town near Cincinnati.

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