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Opera for All Voices (OFAV) began as a consortium of North American opera companies committed to co-commissioning and co-producing new operatic works for audiences of all ages that bear the same artistic integrity and depth of storytelling as main stage works. Over several years it has grown in its mission to tell "stories of our time." Follow host Andrea Fellows Fineberg from The Santa Fe Opera and OFAV collaborators and stakeholders as we explore the process, the context, and the story of commissioning and producing new operas in America.

Feb 24, 2021

How do artists lend their talents in support of social change when they’re literally and figuratively stifled by a global pandemic? They do as voting rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer did in 1964: they find a way to make their voices heard. 

Andrea Fellows Fineberg takes listeners on a short trip with maximum impact. Travel back to the autumn of 2020, to the final weeks of a contentious presidential campaign, to the deck of a historic oil tanker docked in New York Harbor, to the timely world premiere of Is This America? a one-of-a-kind opera event that addressed this country’s history of voter suppression while at the same time celebrating the legacy of Fannie Lou Hamer and those who stood with her.

A three-scene workshop of This Little Light Of Mine, a new one-act opera by composer Chandler Carter and librettist Diana Solomon-Glover, Is This America? portrays pivotal moments in the life of Ms. Hamer dovetailed with scenes related to the Black Lives Matter protests that took place last summer. The piece is a catalyst for advancing these crucial conversations. It is the antithesis of the division that voter disenfranchisement seeks to further. 

Is This America? swiftly became the imperfectly perfect OFAV storytelling vehicle with which to reinforce artistic and democratic ideals. The Mary A. Whalen - that previously mentioned 613-ton oil tanker  - with its contemplative views of the Statue Of Liberty and Freedom Tower proved the imperfectly perfect outdoor stage.

This episode features conversations with the interpretive artists whose Herculean efforts took Is This America? from stoop-front inspiration to online rehearsals to a pandemic-approved performance space. Beth Greenberg, the stage director associated with both works, shares creative insights. Carolina Salguero, founder and director of PortSide NewYork, the community partner and venue provider, offers commentary on the production’s unique locale. Music director Jeri Lynne Johnson provides social context. And the emotional recollections of singers Nicole Joy Mitchell, Briana Elyse Hunter, and Heather Hill speak to an artist’s role in these tumultuous but hopeful times. 

Is This America?


PortSide NewYork - nonprofit organization helmed by Carolina Salguero, home of the Mary A. Whalen, our performance venue for Is This America? 

Winston’s Smoke BBQ in Centennial, CO  - Heather Hill’s family’s restaurant


Season 2, episode 7: Mother of a Movement. - introduction to the commission of This Little Light of Mine with composer Chandler Carter and  librettist Diana Solomon-Glover

Season 3, Bonus Episode: Is This America? - interview with voting and civil rights activist, LaToya Ratlieff, Fannie Lou Hamer’s grand-niece; and Diana Solomon-Glover


Key Change is a production of The Santa Fe Opera in collaboration with Opera for All Voices.

Hosted by Andrea Fellows Fineberg


Beth Greenberg - Stage Director

Carolina Salguero - Founder & Director, PortSide NewYork (community partner, venue provider)

Jeri Lynne Johnson - Music Director

Nicole Joy Mitchell - Fannie Lou Hamer

Briana Elyse Hunter - Tanya, and other characters

Heather Hill - June Johnson/SNCC Worker

Produced and edited by Andrea Klunder at The Creative Impostor Studios

Audio Engineer: Kabby at Kabby Sound Studios in Santa Fe

Theme music by Rene Orth with Corrie Stallings, mezzo-soprano, and Joe Becktell, cello.

Cover art by David Tousley

This episode contains excerpts from the Is This America? workshop.  Other artists include: Michelle Cann, Pianist; Carol Szwei, Jacqueline Gregg, Jacob Terrell, Roosevelt Credit.

Special thanks to PortSide NewYork and Carolina Salguero.

Is This America? was sponsored by Lynn  J. Loacker.

This podcast is made possible due to the generous funding from the Melville Hankins Family Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and an OPERA America Innovation Grant, supported by the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation.  

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