Black Opera Research Network


17.06.2021 und 23.06.2021

The Black Opera Research Network (BORN) is pleased to announce two online panel discussions in June 2021. Panel 1, ‘Charting “Black Opera”’ (17 June), continues BORN’s inaugural discussion series about research and practice in the field of Black Opera. Panel 2, ‘Opera, Commemoration, and the Racialized Politics of Place’ (23 June), is a special event to mark three June dates central to Black political history around the world. Both conversations feature distinguished participants from the spheres of opera performance, composition, and research. Find further information below and on the BORN website. Register for either or both panels here. We look forward to welcoming you to these exciting events!

Panel 1: Charting ‘Black Opera’
Thursday 17 June 2021, 12pm EST / 5pm BST / 6pm CAT / 9am PDT

What is Black? What is Opera? When does something qualify as ‘Black Opera’? In the second of its series of inaugural panels, BORN grapples with the parameters of its own terms of reference. Taking as a starting point the ‘Black Opera Database’ created by BORN affiliates Allison Lewis and Nicholas Newton, the conversation interrogates the politics of racial categorization and generic classification. We ask what institutional integration might mean for works of art that resist prevailing taxonomies of opera and Blackness. Finally, panellists ask if it is possible to circumscribe the field of ‘Black opera’ without allowing practitioners or their works to be co-opted into a politics of inequality and/or exclusion.

Talking points may include, but won’t be limited to:
• diverse demarcations of Blackness in different times and places
• works of art as ciphers for racialized expectations
• operatic Blackness as ‘vernacular’ or ‘folk’ construct
• opera and its generic others
• what should or shouldn’t be included in a database of ‘Black’ operas?
• the potential co-option of Black opera as an antidote to white liberal guilt

Naomi André (USA)

Genevieve Arkle (UK)
Mandla Langa (South Africa)
Allison Lewis (USA)

Panelist bios are available on the BORN website.
Read an interview with Allison Lewis and Nicholas Newton on the development of the Black Opera Database here.

Panel 2: Opera, Commemoration, and the Racialized Politics of Place
Wednesday 23 June 2021, 12pm EST / 5pm BST / 6pm CAT / 9am PDT

16 June 1976: the Soweto Massacre, South Africa. 19 June 1865: the official announcement of emancipation is made to enslaved people in Texas, USA. 22 June 1948: the disembarkation of 1,027 West Indian passengers from HMT Empire Windrush in Tilbury, England.

Commemorating three events that happened in June, BORN draws together an international panel of scholars and practitioners to discuss how Blackness across the Atlantic has been articulated through protest and forced relocation. Shirley Thompson, composer of Memories in Mind: Women of the Windrush, Sipumzo Lucwaba, creator of Imivumba Yamaqhawe: The Scars of Our Heroes, and Nicole Cabell, co-curator of Opera Theatre St. Louis’s I Dream a World Juneteenth celebration, reflect on the individual and shared legacies of Youth Day in South Africa, Juneteenth in the US, and Windrush Day in the UK. Drawing on their own projects, the panellists ask what it means to commemorate racialized oppression and liberation on the operatic stage—a place that carries its own histories of segregation and exclusion. They reflect on opera’s participation in cultures that both hurt and heal, and discuss their own confrontations with the genre’s challenging legacy.

Talking points may include, but won’t be limited to:
• the role of opera in commemorating racial violence and/or liberation
• the intersection of opera as ‘globalized’ practice with localized forms of remembrance
• the re-appropriation of a contentious musical form
• the geo-politics of racial subjugation and commemoration on the operatic stage

Juliana Pistorius (South Africa/UK)

Nicole Cabell (USA)
Sipumzo Lucwaba (South Africa)
Shirley Thompson (UK)

Panelist bios are available on the BORN website.
Register for either or both events here.
A recording and transcription of each event will be made available on the BORN website.