A musical biography of civil rights leader Malcolm X infusing history with Afrofuturism will open at New York’s Metropolitan Opera on November 3rd. The opera traces the life of one of the 20th century’s most influential civil rights orators, including his childhood — he was born Malcolm Little in 1925 — and the death of his father, his joining of the Black nationalist group Nation of Islam and his adoption of the name Malcolm X, and his assassination in 1965.
The composer, Anthony Davis explains that Malcolm X is a tragic hero and that’s the fundamental reason why he chose to produce the opera.
“You know, when he finally realized who he was, and really understood what his position in the world and could make really a significant contribution he was struck down, he was struck down by our people, you know.”
Two years ago, I reported on the opera ‘Omar’, which tells the story of an enslaved Islamic scholar, and how these types of operas signify a coming together of Black history and classical music that speaks to the times that we live today.
Davis goes on to say “With the kind of consciousness in the classical music world to include more people, you know the idea that there is so many people and ideas and an aesthetic was excluded. And I think there’s more openness now to it, reaching out to find these pieces like mine that really speak to the community.”
Leah Hawkins, a soprano singer who stars as both Malcolm X’s mother, Louise Little, and his wife, Betty Shabazz says that telling the fiery orator and leader’s legacy is all about relatibility and that’s the story the team want audiences to leave with.
“There was a time that opera kept up with the times. And so we’re now able to do the same. And it makes him more relatable to our audiences. It gives them the chance to have characters and people that they can hold on to, that they have some relation to. And it brings in all kinds of people into the house that maybe necessarily wouldn’t have come before.”
“It’s something that I want to be very normal for me. I don’t want it to be a special event. I want it to be something that people are used to seeing. New York City is so diverse and our world is so diverse and I think it should be quite normal, it shouldn’t be this huge event now we’re doing Malcolm X, Yay, we’re bringing black people to the stage. It should be what we see all the time, Asian stories, Latino and Hispanic stories. All kinds of things should be represented on our stages.”
Source: AFP/Middle East Eye