First Met Opera by Black Composer Screens at Catamount

ST. JOHNSBURY – Catamount Arts will screen the very first work by a Black composer to grace the stage of the Metropolitan Opera, live on Saturday, October 23, with an encore presentation on October 30.

courtesy photo | “Fire Shut Up My Bones,” an opera from the Metropolitan Opera, will be screened on October 23 and 30 at Catamount Arts.

“Fire Shut Up in my Bones,” by six-time Grammy Award winner and prolific composer Terence Blanchard, opened to rhapsodic reviews on September 27. The Washington Post dubbed opening night, “a watershed moment for American opera.”

The second opera from trumpeter and composer Terence Blanchard, “Fire Shut Up in My Bones” takes audiences on a musical and dramatic journey. To tell this story, Blanchard conjures a sound world that weaves together jazz and gospel idioms, melodies, and an intricate orchestral palette.

Based on New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow’s memoir of his upbringing in Louisiana, “Fire Shut Up in My Bones” is indicative of Blanchard’s commitment to showcasing work relevant to the Black community. “In order to create art that’s meaningful, it has to be part of the community, it has to be of your world,” Blanchard says. “I look at what we do as being a documentarian so to speak…you can help heal people through this process of creating something so beautiful and powerful. (T)hat’s always been my mission.”

Blanchard has deep roots in jazz and has toured with Lionel Hampton and Art Blakely. He is especially celebrated for his close collaboration with director Spike Lee, for whom he has scored 20 films, comprising not quite a third of the film scores Blanchard has written. Blanchard was introduced to opera by his father, an avid aficionado and collector of boxed albums Blanchard and his siblings were not allowed to touch, but which the entire family enjoyed on the weekends.

Charles M. Blow is a noted journalist and commentator, a regularly featured op-ed columnist for The New York Times and an anchor for the Black News Channel. The opera takes place in and around the small and poor town of Gibsland, in northwestern Louisiana, as well as at Blow’s alma mater, Grambling State University. The time ranges from Blow’s childhood in the 1970s to his adulthood in the 1990s.

“Fire Shut Up in My Bones” is conducted by Met Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin and features a libretto that is filmmaker Kasi Lemmons’s first foray into opera. James Robinson and Camille A. Brown, creators of the recent production of the Gershwins’ “Porgy and Bess,” co-direct the new staging for Metropolitan Opera Live in HD. Baritone Will Liverman, one of opera’s most exciting young artists, stars as Charles M. Blow alongside sopranos Angel Blue as Destiny/Loneliness/Greta and Latonia Moore as Billie.For tickets to see “Fire Shut Up in My Bones,” on October 23 or 30, to learn more about Met Live in HD screenings at Catamount Arts, or to review Catamount’s COVID safety protocol requiring masks, valid ID, and proof of vaccination or negative PCR test results, visit catamountarts.org or call 748-2600.