Speakers: William Henry Curry, Durham Symphony Music Director and Raleigh Medal of the Arts Recipient; and Jackson Cooper, Classical Music and Theatre Critic for Classical Voice of North Carolina and the Greensboro News and Record
Moderator: Mark Anthony Neal, Professor of African and African American Culture, Duke University
The state of race in America today has been making for one of the most politically charged seasons of theatre since the Vietnam era. Lin Manuel Miranda’s HAMILTON set a new pace for Latino and African American representation of history on stage. Danai Guiria has been making waves putting the voice of her heritage in the mouths of such actresses as Lupita Nyong’o. This year even New York City Center adopted the HAMILTON-diversity casting in their recent staging of the musical 1776. As “radical” as this era is in furthering diversity in musicals, it also has its daring side: the Met Opera production of Verdi’s OTHELLO starred a white tenor as the Danish moor, to much criticism by the general public now used to HAMILTON-type representation on stage. Unbeknownst to many audiences, racial representation has a long history of success (and pitfalls) in opera and musical theatre. Musicals such as SOUTH PACIFIC, NO STRINGS (which was the first musical to address interracial couples), and operas such as PORGY AND BESS and X: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF MALCOLM X pushed the boundaries of racial representation on stage.
This talk will be a retrospective look at these works and the way they furthered diversity in American opera and musical theatre. Diversity is used more often today than ever before, thanks to musicals like HAMILTON and the controversial OTELLO which made the authenticity of theatrical storytelling a hot topic. This talk will be led by William Henry Curry, Music Director of the Durham Symphony, who has conducted the Grammy-nominated recording of opera X: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF MALCOLM X, has reached thousands of diverse audience members with the DSO’s “All that Jazz” program and work with kidzNotes. Curry wrote “Eulogy for a Dream,” based on Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I have a Dream” speech which has been narrated by the late William Warfield of PORGY AND BESS fame. Jackson Cooper is a Theatre and Classical Music Critic for Classical Voice of North Carolina and a member of the American Theatre Critics Association and Music Critics Association of North America.
This event is presented by the John Hope Franklin Center and the Duke Council on Race and Ethnicity. A light lunch will be served. Parking is available in nearby Trent Rd and Erwin Rd parking decks. The series provides 1 hour parking vouchers to guests.