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.
VIEW THE FULL WORKSHOP:
Is This America?
ALSO MENTIONED IN EPISODE:
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.
To learn more about Opera for all voices, visit us at SantaFeOpera.org