When many people think of opera, they think of grand sets, magical themes and love stories set decades or centuries in the past sung in Italian, German or Russian. But, in the latest offering from the Michigan Opera Theatre, those conventions are set aside to make way for something truly relevant in 2021.
The MOT is staging the opera “Blue” on Sept. 11 and 12. It tells the story of a modern-day family in Harlem. The father is an NYPD officer, which becomes a point of tension as his son grows more politically active and socially aware. It’s an opera that digs into issues of police brutality and race, shining light on some of the hardest conversations we’re having as a society in contemporary America.
Listen: Kaneza Schaal and Yuval Sharon talk about bringing this work to life in Detroit.
Kaneza Schaal is director of Michigan Opera Theatre’s production of “Blue.” In discussing the opera’s themes of police brutality and race in America, Schaal says it’s also about modern American life. “‘Blue’ is the story of a family trying to love and protect each other … a Black family in Harlem and the story of the community around them,” explains Schaal. She also notes the role of dance in this particular production. “We are working with dance … Krumping to Jit, these dance vocabularies are helping us animate the music and the story,” she says.
Yuval Sharon is the artistic director for the Michigan Opera Theatre. In describing the plot and format of this opera, Sharon explains it goes about depicting the violence experienced by the family at the center of the story in an unconventional way. “What’s beautiful about this opera is … we see the beautiful life of this family, we see them learning to be parents, the son becomes a teen, there’s generational conflict and then while we are all taking a break for intermission, that’s when the violence happens,” says Sharon. “Opera can be about things that matter to us very urgently and importantly … it’s not about topicality, it’s about opera as an art form that can really speak to where we are today,” he says.